History heavily favours the Magic
Although the teams' historic records would indicate otherwise, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic are very wary of what the Central Pulse could hit them with.
The two sides meet in Porirua tonight in round seven of the ANZ Championship, with the visitors riding the wave of a two-match winning streak and the hosts looking to turn around their fortunes after two successive losses.
Winning and the Pulse has never really fitted in the same sentence. They've been victorious in just seven of 58 games since the competition began in 2008, a staggering 12 per cent win ratio, compared to the Magic's 69 (and 76 for regular season matches).
The Magic have also never been beaten by them in the eight times they have clashed, but records will count for little tonight as this Pulse outfit is the most competitive it has ever been and the Magic have shown they themselves can be vulnerable.
But if the visitors bring the energy they played with in crushing the Fever last weekend, they will out-gun the Pulse.
Magic coach Noeline Taurua is cautious about tonight's opponents and realises her side needs to start over again, following their splendid display in the last round.
"[We're] keeping our feet on the ground, we're coming up against a different opposition and they're very good players in there, very good defensive structures, and we can't expect that what happened last week is going to be exactly the same," Taurua said.
The Pulse have a sprinkling of Silver Ferns through their lineup and their defensive end of Joline Henry, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Katrina Grant is particularly good, although they will have to play very well to contain a hot Irene van Dyk and Julianna Naoupu.
"I think they probably haven't been as consistent as they would have liked, but we also believe that when any team plays against us they always bring their A game," Taurua said of the Pulse, noting the Magic are often the yardstick for many sides. "So defensively they're going to go for a lot of balls, they're going to create the pressure on us, and in attack they're going to be quite mobile in there."
After making substitutions aplenty in the opening couple of rounds, Taurua has managed to find a steady lineup which is proving the goods. "I think the ones who have taken the court over the last couple of weeks have improved and with that comes the understanding as a team," Taurua said. "And they're quite valuable, those links, and I think we're starting to see the benefits of when you can consolidate."
The form of Leana de Bruin and Casey Williams in the defensive circle has jumped up a level, and those two have dragged in a heap of ball to help their side.
"They're starting to create for each other and attack the ball, and that creates gains, so just doing more of the same, but also looking at other areas that we could possibly hunt and attack the ball as well," Taurua said of the focus.
The Magic still want to do better in terms of getting the ball into space, reacting to what the opposition's doing, having the courage to go for intercepts and sorting a plan B if the ball is not collected from them.
Further good news for the team is that Jess Tuki is back running with the squad in opposed training sessions, after having suffered a slight tear in a lower disc of her back. A likely return to action for her would be round 10 – the week after the Magic's bye.
AT A GLANCE
What: ANZ Championship, Rd 7, Central Pulse v Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic
Where: Te Rauparaha Arena, Porirua
When: 7.30 tonight
TAB odds: Pulse $2.90 Magic $1.35