By Mark Etheridge
The South African men’s and women’s teams remain unbeaten as the African Continental Championships move into the business end in Egypt.
Thursday saw the women trouncing Egypt 11-0 while the men later drew 3-3, also against Egypt, at the Ismailia event.
The eclipsing of Egypt was the biggest winning margin in the women’s competition this year.
Most lethal South African on the day was Dirkie Chamberlain who netted four times.
There were also two goals apiece for Suzette Damons and Lilian du Plessis and Sylvia van Jaarsveldt, Quanita Bobbs and Stephanie Baxter rounded off the scoring.
That result means South Africa have scored 21 goals without reply in their three matches at this FIH World Cup qualifying tournament.
Drawing against Egypt meant the men’s side dropped their first points of the tournament after beating Nigeria and Ghana earlier in the week.
Taine Paton, who got the winner in the 3-2 win against Ghana, opened the scoring on Thursday before Nqobile Ntuli added a second less than 10 minutes later.
But the host nation then scored three times without reply to lead before Tim Drummond hauled the South Africans back on to level terms.
Sheldon Rostron is entrusted with coaching duties for both the men and women’s side at this tournament.
‘The girls played quite well today, structurally sound and played a good brand of hockey. We were able to distribute and expose them in crucial areas. Although we won 11-0 we left some goals on the field with six good opportunities which we missed.
‘I think the girls have done well considering the harsh environment with high humidity and heat. We’ve ensured harsh recovery protocols and hydration plans to ensure that we cope and are able to be at our best.
‘The tournament has been a process of focusing on key areas and developing certain structures and set plays that we wanted to test as part of our preparation leading into a busy year in 2018 with Commonwealth Games and the World Cup.’
While the girls were on a roll on the field of play, striker Candice Manuel was on a flight home after breaking her hand earlier in the tournament.
‘Candice has a fracture to her hand which happened during our match against Nigeria,’ says Rostron.
‘This meant an early return for her as she had to undergo surgery. But reports are that the surgery went well today and that it will be a short recovery and that she will possibly be able to play in the PHL later this December once rehab and clearance has been given from our medical staff.’
Moving on to the men’s draw against Egypt and is so often the case with South African hockey, Rostron commented on the rough ride.
‘It’s been a journey I think for both me and the men, trying to gain and gauge what is required to essentially achieve a very difficult task considering the difficult circumstances and circumstances.
‘We were not able to have much preparation leading up to this event and have essentially had to cram in so much in such a short space of time.
‘However we have gelled quite well and the players have taken well to the thought processes and planning leading up to this event.
‘We focused on the first few games on trying to ensure that we built on principles and structures that would ensure us success… most of the focus being on converting from zones that we bring the ball as well as establishing a solid defensive base that we can launch attacks from.
‘Today was a good result against the Egyptians but we didn’t want to show too much as we may possibly meet in a final.’
Friday is a tournament rest day and on Saturday the men’s side will meet Kenya and the women take on Ghana before Sunday’s 3/4th place play-offs and the final.