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Southern Steel coach Noeline Taurua is not buying into talk a largely written-off Central Pulse is over-achieving this season.
The Pulse heads into its ANZ Championship clash against the Steel in Invercargill tomorrow afternoon sitting just one place behind the New Zealand conference leader, with a win, loss and draw so far.
Pulse captain Katrina Grant agreed earlier this week her side, written off by most pundits pre-season, was not expected to cause sides too many problems this year and had already over-achieved.
But Taurua, though acknowledging the Pulse squad had not spent time much together before this season, could not quite understand why the side from the capital had been so lowly regarded.
"It is the first year a lot of them have been together but they've got huge international experience which we don't even have.
"I think where they're sitting is where they should be sitting.''
Taurua pointed to the seasoned quartet of Grant, Chelsea Locke, Jacinta Messer and Elias Scheres as proof the Pulse had more backbone that many had given it credit for.
Phoenix Karaka (10 test caps) and and Ameliaranne Wells (4 caps) had international experience and rookie 18-year-old goal shoot Maia Wilson had so far looked at ease at this level, she said.
There was not a lot of experience in the rest of the squad and the Pulse had not looked too far outside its starting seven so far, but Taurua was cautious.
"They're very deadly from the defence end to the mid-court, there's a lot of experience through there.
"They're a good, solid team throughout and it's difficult to just target one area.
"We've got to be able to work to slowly grind them down.''
The Steel knocked over the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic in Rotorua last week for just the sixth time and recorded its biggest winning margin against the franchise of 10 goals.
It had won both its away matches and was yet to taste defeat but was still looking to put in a complete performance.
However, Taurua said the side was tracking in the right direction.
"We felt we deserved the two points against the Magic.
"It was probably our best performance but I'd probably question the first two games.''
The side had achieved some of its statistical targets so far but needed to create more turnovers, she said.
"We are number one in [converting] turnovers to scoring, so when we get the ball we can take it through the court and make it count.
"Any extra ball we do get, we score from it, so we need to be creating more pressure on the opposition.''
The side was also fourth, and top of the New Zealand conference, in converting centre passes to goals, Taurua said.
The Steel was likely to take an unchanged line-up into tomorrow's game for the third straight week.
Te Huinga Selby-Rickit came on for Jane Watson at halftime against the Magic, and Storm Purvis moved to goal keep, and the change seemed to make a difference.
But Taurua said she had not been tempted to alter the starting line-up.
"She did make a huge impact but I'm pretty much a stable person and we're looking for consistent performances from week to week so, at this stage, it will be the status quo.
"We're very lucky we've got 10 good players and we've been playing all 10, apart from the last game.
"The ones that do come on have to oust the current players and they are all very experienced players, so it's up to them to be consistent when they do get their opportunities."
The Steel produced an unflattering performance in its only home game so far, drawing with the Mainland Tactix in round two.
The side let itself down in that match and was looking to make amends tomorrow, Taurua said.
The Steel will again look to goal shoot Jhaniele Fowler-Reid tomorrow, whose 142 goals have contributed almost 80% of the team's tally this season, comfortably the highest percentage by a player for any team.