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SA must beat Aussies

South Africa and Australia are fighting it out for a spot in the final of Saturday’s SPAR Cup women’s hockey tournament.

This after South Africa beat India 4-1 on Wednesday and Australia drew 2-2 with Argentina in the earlier game.

Log-leaders Argentina are down to play last-placed India on Friday and only a major upset will change things.

South Africa must beat the Aussies on Friday to make the final as the Hockeyroos have a slightly better goal difference.

Confirmed SA coach Jenny King: “We need a win against Australia to reach the final. With our speedy strikers, our ability on the counter-attack will be vital in exposing the holes in the Hockeyroos’ defence.”

The Aussies were 2-0 up against Argentina before the world’s second ranked team (Netherlands are tops) came back with a vengeance. Led by the incomparable four-time World Player of the Year Lucian Aymar, they were able to exploit the space given them in midfield to run with success at the Aussies and netted two goals in six minutes.

King was also full of praise for her younger, more inexperienced players.

“Loreen Irvine is holding her own at this level, Jade Mayne is looking good, although we need to work on her defensive skills, and Roxy Turner was powerful going through the middle. It is nice to see the youngsters putting their hands up.”

Following a 3-0 half-time lead and 4-0 up 10 minutes after the break, King was unhappy at how South Africa lost focus in the last 25 minutes. “India came back really hard and we were going forward too quickly,” she said.

SA co-captain Marsha Marescia, who now shares the responsibility with goalkeeper Mariette Rix, said the team lost their shape in the second half, although she pointed out that the Indians must be given credit for the manner in which they turned the game around after trailing 4-0 with 25 minutes to go.

Three of the SA goals came from set-pieces, the alert Vida Ryan pouncing twice through a first-timer after a rebound off goalkeeper Puna Savita’s pads and a sublime deflection goal, her twin sister Vidette also netting from a neat deflection in between.

For the fourth, Kate Woods (nee Hector) rifled the perfect flick into the top-left corner after Argentine umpire Irene Presenqui had no hesitation in awarding a penalty stroke after Kathleen Taylor was brought down in the circle.