England will avoid arch-rivals Australia in the Netball World Cup semi-finals after beating long-term bogey opponents South Africa
in their final group game.
Recording a sixth win from six games, the Roses drew a penalty-ridden performance from the Proteas but lost their first quarter of the tournament in the final 15 minutes.
By topping the group with a 58-47 win, they will now face New Zealand
on Saturday. The Silver Ferns lost narrowly to Australia.
The Roses benefited when South Africa's captain Bongiwe Msomi —who had been selected at centre rather than wing attack — went off with an ankle injury in the first quarter.
And they were gifted several free passes in and around the circle following illegal contact from South Africa, enabling them to take a strong early lead in a clinical first quarter.
In what developed into a frenetic match, players were putting their bodies on the line throughout.
In addition to several pile-ups, England shooter Helen Housby received an early push off the court and captain Serena Guthrie suffered a heavy fall.
The two umpires were kept busy throughout, with South Africa centre Erin Burger given a warning in the third quarter for several infringements on Guthrie in particular.
Just like in their previous games, England responded to pressure early in each quarter by keeping up their lead and extending it, and were helped by more than 50 contact penalties.
Yet, having only won the second and third quarters narrowly, Tracey Neville was heard telling her team 'this is about mentality' heading into the final quarter with a score of 43-30.
South Africa have long been England's bogey team, having beaten them in the recent quad series, and Neville warned her players not to become complacent despite having a good lead.
The head coach suggested the first quarter had been the best her team had played in the tournament. 'We were clinical and that really paid dividends,' she said.
'I said to the girls before the game that this was just about having a crack at it and to go out and enjoy it. I love the way South Africa play and they have caused us many headaches.'
Having watched her team pull away into a 10-goal lead, she started to rest key players before the final two matches, bringing on Natalie Panagarry and Rachel Dunn.