West Coast Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich has backed star defender Courtney Bruce to help guide Australia to its fourth consecutive World Cup victory this weekend.
The Fever captain is set to go head-to-head against South African shooter Lenize Potgieter in today’s semi-final against South Africa, with the winner to take on either the host nation England or cross-Tasman rivals New Zealand tomorrow.
Bruce has starred in the latter half of the tournament, winning Most Valuable player in their preliminary games against New Zealand and Malawi, and leads the tournament in deflections (38) and is inside the top 10 for both intercepts (17) and rebounds (15).
Remarkably, one of the biggest questions hanging over the Diamonds ahead of the World Cup was whether Bruce or uncapped NSW Swifts defender Sarah Klau would be Australia’s first choice goal keeper — which the former has emphatically answered.
“It was always going to take time with them experimenting with their combinations and the depth the squad has,” Marinkovich said.
“Courtney knew that she would have to be in her best for to have to get out on the court.
“She is really taking it on and I see the consistency she is building across her game is really showing.”
Marinkovich said Bruce’s match-up against Potgieter would go a long way to deciding the winner of the semi-final.
“Potgieter has a quick shot, it is unorthodox in the way that she shoots the ball,” she said.
“The way in which they have to adjust and get over the shot is going to be critical, so they can look to delay that release.
“They (South Africa) are moving the ball really well.”
Marinkovich believes Australia will win a tight game against South Africa and will face England in the final, a re-match of last year’s Commonwealth Games gold medal match.
“I definitely think Australia will get through,” she said.
“I think it will be tight between England and New Zealand, but I think just with the form England is in at the moment, I say they will get over the line.”
Bruce’s teammate Jhaniele Fowler was not as fortunate, with the shooter and her Jamaican teammates missing out on the semi-finals after losses to England and South Africa.
Fowler had an exceptional tournament though, scoring 235 goals including 43 goals against England in a heartbreaking eight-goal loss.
“I think Jhaniele was really strong,” Marinkovich said.
“There mid-court is a bit more inexperienced to the competition they come up against.
“Whilst they had great strengths at either end, it was the ability to get the ball to the shooter.
“So what she (Fowler) was able to do within her role, she was a strong focal point, she shot at a high volume and high accuracy.”