Cape Town - The Netherlands beat the South African women's hockey team 4-2 in the final of the Investec Challenge at Hartleyvale on Sunday, but the 11th ranked Proteas made their fans proud with a scintillating second half against the world champions and Olympic gold medallists.
At half-time the Dutch were 2-0 up through goals from Roos Drost (7th minute) and Kitty van Male (23 rd minute) but the scoreline did not reflect the tremendous fight the SA team put up. World record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee and Jade Mayne came close to getting on the scoresheet but were stymied by presence of the world’s best shot stopper, Joyce Sombroek, in The Netherlands’ goals.
After the changeover a revitalised SA scored five minutes into the second half (40th minute) from their second successive penalty corner when Lisa Deetlefs slapped in the rebound (2-0).
South Africa put enormous pressure on the Dutch for a sustained period, but midway through the second half the world’s best team - devastating on the counter-attack - came back at pace and outstanding forward Maria Verschoor beat South African keeper Sanani Mangisa from close for 3-1 in the 55th minute. Four minutes later (59th minute) Celia Evans on the right flank shook off a heavy tackle and made ground under much pressure before firing a cross to Mayne who was lurking near the left post and the Western Province striker made no mistake from inside the six-yard box (3-2).
Thoughts of SA being able to draw level and force the match into golden goal extra-time were not to be, however, as Mangisa palmed a Maartje Paumen screamer over the crossbar before Charlotte Vega scored a relatively soft goal with seven seconds left (70th minute) for the 4-2 final scoreline.
Both sides had shots pulled off the goalline - Laura Nunnink doing it for the Dutch from a Coetzee penalty corner and SA co-captain Lenise Marais the same from a Dutch drag-flick PC.
SA co-captain Marsha Marescia and Tarryn Bright got through a mountain of work in midfield but on both sides it was magnificent team efforts that produced a marvellous spectacle of international women’s hockey at its best.
In the playoff for third place, England beat Australia 3-2 in a penalty shootout, after the teams were 2-all after regulation time. No goals were scored in extra time.