Cape Town - South Africa survived a jittery last 10 minutes but did enough to hold on for a 3-2 win over India that catapulted them into the women’s hockey semi-finals at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow – and a date with Australia.
Captain Marsha Cox, the most experienced player on the pitch with 345 international caps, admitted that ‘it wasn’t the best performance, but it is the three points that matter so we’ll settle for that’.
It was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde performance from the South Africans, for whom Lisa-Marie Deetlefs was making her 200th appearance, because they controlled the match for long periods, before letting the less inexperienced Indians back into the game.
South Africa went into the encounter only needing a draw to reach the semi-finals and were sent on their way when Tarryn Bright netted from a well-worked penalty corner. India struck back when they were awarded a penalty stroke in the 34th minute before Dirkie Chamberlain scored in the final minute of the half, which would have been a hammer blow to the Indians. It was her seventh strike of a productive tournament for her so far.
Sulette Damons had a good chance in the 46th minute but saw her reverse stick shot fly over the goal, but when Ilse Davids smashed home in the 54th minute it looked game over at 3-1.
Strangely, after earning their fifth penalty corner in the 56th minute, South Africa seemed to sit back on their lead. Admittedly, India still needed an unlikely three more goals to qualify, but they were allowed to come onto the attack and go for it.
‘We stepped back,’ admitted Cox, ‘and we didn’t show enough conviction in attack. We needed to sustain and build on our lead, and we should have gone for that fourth and fifth goal once we were 3-1 up. But there are aspects of the game that we have to be happy with and the most important is that we won, and now we’re in the semi-finals.
‘From here anything can happen, although Australia will be hard to beat and we must be realistic. They’re probably the best side in the competition but that doesn’t mean we won’t be trying to win. If we lose then so be it, but we’ll be fighting hard. A defeat in the semi would throw us into a bronze medal match with either England or New Zealand and we have nothing to fear from either,’ Cox added.
India had an average age of 21, against the 25 of South Africa, but it was the younger of the two goalkeepers, Anelle van Deventer, who will have been toasted in the camp after the match. She reacted well to deny a charging India inside the last 10 moments as yellow shirts flooded the South African danger zone. A reflex save with nine minutes remaining kept the scores at 3-2 and had there been the equaliser India would have fancied their chances of getting the winner.
However, had South Africa not won it would have been a travesty of justice. They weren’t at their best but were the better side and can now regroup and come back stronger at the business end of the competition.