Singapore's netballers got an early "preview" of what to expect in Saturday's play-off for third as the Republic lost 38-46 to Botswana in the Mission Foods Nations Cup yesterday.
The two sides will likely battle for the bronze that day as Northern Ireland and Papua New Guinea (PNG) remain undefeated after four games in the round-robin stage. Chinese Taipei and a Singapore invitational side, the other teams in the competition, are winless.
While the loss may have been hard to swallow, there were plenty of key takeaways for the hosts, with coach Ruth Aitken calling yesterday's game "the dress rehearsal and not the wedding".
"We were a little inconsistent. We fell into a bit of a hole in the third quarter, but it was good to see that we finished strongly (Singapore outscored Botswana 13-9 in the fourth quarter). We've got to be more consistent over four quarters," she said.
Botswana coach Neo Kebuang attributed the win to a half-time talk, saying: "The game was too tight but we managed to keep up and I think the girls played very well.
"We were very active on our shooting and our defence was working very well.
"We really pulled away in the third quarter because we usually don't do well in the third so I wanted to change that, and told my players during half-time to concentrate and focus and that was how we managed to pull away."
We were a little inconsistent. But it was good to see that we finished strongly. We've got to be more consistent over four quarters.
RUTH AITKEN , Singapore coach
Apart from a flurry of sloppy passes and miscommunication, the shooters also could not seem to find the net with Charmaine Soh shooting 68 per cent, while Yasmine Ho shot a better 84 per cent.
Aitken revealed that she was trying out different combinations as Soh, who usually starts at goal shooter (GS), started at goal attack (GA), while Ho started at GS.
Said Aitken: "It (the combination of Charmaine and Yasmine) started very well but I think Charmaine got a little tired towards the end.
"It's a transition for her to play the whole game at GA when she has been a shooter for so long."
Still, the coach admitted that scoring just five goals in the third quarter was unacceptable.
"That's one every three minutes and that is not good enough," she said.
"We've got to be able to address those dips a little more quickly."
Looking ahead to Saturday's match-up, Aitken said a more aggressive approach is the key.
"When we go up to the ball like we did in the fourth, only then did we create the turnovers, so coming into Saturday, we got to get out and challenge and empty the tank in that 60 minutes."
In other matches, PNG beat the Singapore invitational team 37-36 while Northern Ireland thrashed Chinese Taipei 74-21.
Today is a rest day. The action resumes tomorrow, with Botswana meeting Chinese Taipei at 3pm, PNG taking on Northern Ireland at 5pm, and an all-Singapore affair is on the cards at 7pm at the OCBC Arena Hall 1. Tickets can be purchased at www.apactix.com.