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SA women look to build momentum against Belgians

Given the generally close scores in recent years, few would have predicted a win by six clear goals as was the case when the Investec South Africa women’s hockey beat world No12’s Belgium 6-0 in the first Test of the six-Test series in Cape Town on Sunday.

The world’s 11th-ranked South Africans were smarting from Saturday’s 4-1 defeat against Australia that dashed their chances of a rare series victory over the world No4 side ÔÇô and less than 24 hours later they erased that disappointment in emphatic fashion with one of the most fluid performances seen from the side in a number of years, reports Jon Cook.

SA captain Marsha Cox said after the 6-0 drubbing of the Belgians that a feature of the win was the quality of the combination play, and indeed the cohesiveness between the three lines ÔÇô defenders, midfielders and forwards ÔÇô was quite remarkable.

Yet the twice World All Stars selection was quick to point out that the Belgians were sure to be a more competitive unit in the second Test, which kicks off at 8pm on Tuesday at Hartleyvale.

In head coach Pascal Kina the Europeans have a man who knows his stuff and he will come up with some ideas on how the reds can close the South Africans down and limit their freedom of expression, which was such a hallmark of the winners’ play on Sunday.

Belgium have a host of experienced players in their camp ÔÇô and quality in the likes of captain Charlotte de Vos, Stephanie de Groof, Lieselotte van Lindt, Erica Coppey and Jill Boon ÔÇô and the side hasn’t changed all that match over the last while so now that they have settled down in Cape Town the remaining five Test matches are probably going to be tighter, closer affairs.

Shelley Russell, right, in action for SA at the weekend. Picture Matthew Withers/Action Pix

That said, the SA camp will be looking to reproduce another quality performance, as the mark of a top side is the ability to churn out high-level performances more often than not.

Virtually the entire SA team stepped up their game on Sunday and now it is not only class acts like Cox and Shelley Russell who are putting in great contributions match in and match out, while it was also gratifying to see a player like Celia Evans put her hand up with two fine field goals.

The Test will be preceded by a 6pm international men’s match between a Western Province Invitation team and leading Dutch Hoofdklasse club, Amsterdam HC.