Diamonds can improve despite England win

Australia's netball Diamonds have opened the defence of their Quad Series title with a "messy" comeback victory over old rivals England - and a warning from their captain in South Africa that they've got huge room for improvement.

The Diamonds hit back after a dismal start, rallying to win 61-55 in their opener in Cape Town on Saturday but only showing in patches why they're the world's number one side.

They ultimately maintained their stranglehold over England's Roses, but had to rouse themselves against their old rivals at the Cape Town International Convention Centre after going an alarming nine goals down early in the first quarter.

The Australians' captain Liz Watson accepted it was a mixed bag in their opening match of 2023 as they seek to defend the crown they won in London last year.

"It was messy ... you've got to take those wins when you can," she said, after Australia had seen their possession turned over 19 times during the match.

"I think we had momentum - but not consistently. There's lots and lots to work on for tomorrow."

On Sunday (Monday AEDT), Watson's Commonwealth champs will face New Zealand in their second match after the world champion Silver Ferns had earlier demonstrated in their 61-41 victory over hosts South Africa that they are ready for the fray.

The Diamonds were ring rusty at the start, and also strangled by the suffocating English defence that kept them to just six goals in the first 10 minutes before they finally started to find some rhythm in attack and ended the first quarter four behind.

They turned the tide further before halftime, the growing influence of the exceptional Courtney Bruce helping them grab momentum and briefly take the lead before they eventually went into the interval 32-31 down.

But after England had stretched their lead early after halftime, Stacey Marinkovich's side then took over the match with a remarkable unanswered 11-goal tear, scoring 14 of the last 15 goals in the third quarter to lead by seven.

Despite a late rally, there was no way back for England once Australia had stretched their lead to double figures in the final quarter, with Sophie Garbin ending up with 46 goals from her 51 attempts.

Kiera Austin ended up scoring seven from nine, while Steph Wood netted eight from 11.