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SA women aim to bounce back

Ranked 12th in the world the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team take on eighth-ranked Spain in Rosario, Argentina Tuesday night in both squads’ second match of the 2010 BDO FIH World Cup.

Pool B’s first round in the early hours of Monday morning (SA time) saw world number two Argentina beat Investec South Africa 5-2 after the scores had been locked 1-1 at half-time.

Ranked sixth in the world, England, with last year’s KZN Coastals Raiders kingpin Crista Cullen playing a leading role, edged Spain 3-2 and world South Korea (No 11) upset world three and 2008 Olympic runners-up China 2-1.

SA Hockey World’s Jonathan Cook reports that Spain ran England close in an action-packed encounter to rival that between Las Leonas (the lionesses) of Argentina and Investec South Africa. Plentiful goalscoring opportunities reportedly went by the wayside and the South African defence will have to be on their guard like never before.

In what was an encouraging team effort, Investec SA head coach Giles Bonnet will no doubt be concerned as to whether the inaccurate passing that saw numerous turnovers against the fabulous Argentineans can be kept to a minimum; it’s a malady that allows for no respite against quality sides who come at you in numbers when in possession.

The technical skills of the Investec South Africans let them down and had it not been for a number of world-class saves from Western Province goalkeeper Mariette Rix the host nation could have wrapped the match up in the first 20 minutes or so.

Apart from Rix there were other heartening signs for captain and World All Stars selection Marsha Marescia of provincial champions Southern Gauteng, not least the gutsy display by the team in the face of a dizzying variety and sequence of attacks that were orchestrated in the main by joint World Hockey Player of the Year Luciana Aymar.

Southerns’ Lisa Deetlefs, Northerns Blues’ Kim Hubach and the KZN Coastal Raiders’ Lenise Marais were particularly remarkable for their refusal to bow down to stellar opponents, 23-year-old midfielder Marcelle Keet of Border revealed glimpses of the stickwork that can make her an exceptional player, Western Province’s Vida Ryan scored a goal with a strike most children dream of, and North West’s promising striker Sulette Damons (20) had an encouraging debut.

And then there’s Pietie Coetzee. After five years out of the game at world level, the 31-year-old sharpshooter looked like she had never been away. Las Leonas were never comfortable when she got the scraps of ball they allowed her; her 191st goal in 195 internationals revealed there is little wrong with her drag-flick at penalty corners and a couple of snap shots in open play suggest there is plenty more to come ÔÇô if her team-mates can somehow supply her with sufficient ball; but that’s not easy against the best defenders in the world.

Meanwhile, there is a significant South African influence on the technical side of the tournament; Sheila Brown, the Southern Gauteng Hockey Association president and SA Hockey Association vice-president, is the tournament director with one of the world’s top three umpires, Marelize de Klerk, and the relatively new Michelle Joubert behind the whistle.

Mariette Rix, Marsha Marescia (capt), Shelley Russell, Marcelle Keet, Dirkie Chamberlain, Lisa Deetlefs, Kelly Madsen, Pietie Coetzee, Jen Wilson, Lesle-Ann George, Vida Ryan, Lenise Marais, Kathleen Taylor, Cindy Botha, Hanli Hattingh, Kim Hubach, Tarryn Bright, Sulette Damons