Southern Steel look to atone for first round flop

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 07/03/2014
Rachel Rasmussen
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
PRESSURE POINT: Southern Steel defender Rachel Rasmussen, right, takes on Queensland Firebirds shooter Romelda Aiken in the season opener.

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A bit of personal responsibility has been the theme for the Southern Steel as they prepare for a daunting assignment against the Central Pulse tomorrow.

Steel's 60-44 loss to the Queensland Firebirds was punctuated by some puzzling mistakes - stepping calls, unforced handling errors etc - even some of the team's more senior players were guilty of fluffing their lines on opening night.

Veteran defender Rachel Rasmussen, who first signed with the Auckland Diamonds in the Coca-Cola Cup in 2000, said limiting those sorts of blemishes had been this week's project for the Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored team.

"The biggest thing has been our personal errors. It's quite an easy fix because it's up to the individual. We've been working on that and some through court attack and connections. Hopefully it will show in the game on Saturday."

Rasmussen thought the emotions around a season opener in the rebuilt ILT Stadium Southland may have played a part in some of Steel's sloppiness.

"It may have been a factor, but our pre-season build up - we had our first training with everyone available a week prior to the game. There was a lack of connections in there, but we've worked on that."

Steel are under no illusions just how tough it will be against the Pulse.

Heck, the coach, and half the players used to be Steel team-mates and Rasmussen will be at the sharp end of things trying to blunt the impact of Irene van Dyk and Donna Wilkins.

The Adelaide Thunderbirds have done the Steel few favours by handing the Pulse, who are desperate to make a first-ever finals appearance this year, a last-second loss.

"We always knew [the Pulse] would come out firing. They've got a lot of guts and they are pretty stacked with some amazing athletes and legends of the game," Rasmussen said.

"[Wilkins and van Dyk] are both legends and it's going to be a test of our defensive end. We are relatively young and new but we've looked at them and have plans to combat them."

Rasmussen is again tasked with leading a defensive unit which includes talented youngsters Phoenix Karaka and Storm Purvis, along with the off-season signing Erena Mikaere.

Karaka's performance against the Firebirds and 196cm Romelda Aiken was the brightest thing to come from Sunday's loss.

"She had an amazing game. That's something that she's been working on. Being called up into the Silver Ferns and working in that environment has obviously helped her. She's got awesome skills and a lot more potential."

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- Fairfax Media

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