London - The South African women's hockey team will have to be content with a bottom-half finish to their Olympic campaign after losing 1-0 to Australia in their penultimate Pool B contest here on Saturday.
The loss ensured South Africa would not be able to compete for a semi-final place as they remained winless after four games and in danger of losing all their pool games at the London Games.
World No 12 South Africa suffered three defeats in as many matches heading into the fixture, leaving them rooted to the bottom of Pool B, while Australia lost their opener to New Zealand, before beating Germany and the United States.
Australia drew first blood seven minutes into the clash after they picked up a loose ball from within their own half and hit SA on a lightning quick counter-attack. This left Jade Close free from her markers and only South African goalkeeper Mariette Rix to beat, which Close did, to put her side 1-0 up inside the first 10 minutes.
SA came back strongly after the goal and mounted serious pressure on their southern hemisphere counterparts, but failed to take their chances as the Australians soaked up wave after wave of the South Africans attack.
The South Africans came out after the half-time break and had the first opportunity of the half, but were stifled by Australian keeper Toni Cronk.
SA had their first penalty corner (PC) of the half a short while later but failed to get a shot away as Australia soaked up the pressure.
Marsha Marescia was handed a golden opportunity 43 minutes in, as the South Africans surged forward through Pietie Coetzee who found Sulette Damons in the area, before laying off to Marescia who fired her shot straight at Clonk who made a straightforward save to deny the South African captain.
To their credit, the South African women refused to give up as the clock wound down, carrying through the pressure they maintained in the first half into the second period, resulting in SA's second PC, which was turned over after a video referral by the Hockeyroos.
Jennifer Wilson won South Africa's third PC three minutes from time, after the ball took a touch off an Australian foot but Cronk produced a fine save to round off a solid display for her country.
SA ended the match having created more scoring opportunities (11) compared to the Aussies' seven, but were unfortunate not to be rewarded for arguably their best performance of the Games thus far.
The South Africans conclude their campaign against the US on Monday.