SA hockey women topple India
Parana - The South African women's hockey team defeated India 2-1 late on Saturday night (SA time) with to qualify for Monday’s 1:00 (SA time) Four Nations final against world champions Argentina.
The South Africans, who were 1-0 up at half-time, scored via penalty corner goals from Kate Woods and captain Marsha Marescia. India scored from a Kaur Jaspreet corner.
A high-pressure match, it was a gutsy performance in which every South African played a part, right down to the coaching staff who devised a game plan that stifled the skilful Indians for much of the time. The girls in green and gold also produced moments of magic with the stick and it was a collective effort of which they could be proud.
Captain Marescia’s side had to beat India to qualify for their second successive Four Nations final against Argentina, having been shaded 2-1 in the gold medal match in Buenos Aires last weekend, while India needed a draw.
The Proteas can draw heart from Friday’s heart-stopping 2-1 round-robin defeat to Argentina’s darling Las Leonas (Lionesses), a match they could well have won on another day, and the Parana final is set to be another heart-stopping affair.
In the late game, Leonas were not all that impressive in beating a determined Ireland 2-1.
On Friday, South Africa didn’t allow the Leonas to settle into their rhythm and could do so again if they play their cards right. SA will be without a major player in Lesle-Ann George (ankle) but Shelley Russell (hamstring) was able to play against India and was a constant thorn in coach Raj Kumar’s side.
SA dealt another psychological blow against the impressive India combination and have now won the last three encounters after India won the previous two. The two sides are arch-rivals for the London 2012 Olympic Games place that is on offer when the Olympic Qualifier tournament takes place in Delhi, India in February.
In preparation for Delhi, SA will tackle Spain, Ireland and Belgium in the Investec international series at the Randburg Hockey Stadium beginning mid-January.
World record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee and a number of other players should return to action for this series, further bolstering the SA side.
SA team vs India:
Mariette Rix, Kate Woods, Illse Davids, Tarryn Bright, Jade Mayne, Shelley Russell, Kathleen Taylor (all Western Province); Marsha Marescia (captain), Lisa Deetlefs, Bernie Coston (all Southern Gauteng); Sanani Mangisa, Nicolene Terblanche, Dirkie Chamberlain (all Northern Blues); Sulette Damons, Celia Evans (both North West); Liesel Dorothy (Eastern Province).
Injured: Lesle-Ann George (Free State).
Remaining fixtures (SA time) - Sunday: bronze medal match - India vs Ireland (10.30 ). Monday: gold medal match - Argentina vs Investec South Africa (1:30).
Results to date – Wednesday: SA 2 Ireland 2; Argentina 3 India 1. Thursday: India 2 Ireland 1; Argentina 2 SA 1. Saturday: SA 2 India 1; Argentina 2 Ireland 1.