South Africa emerged victorious in the first ever indoor hockey international played in Zimbabwe on Friday.
It was the perfect afternoon for the SA women at the Hellenic Academy School in Harare as the South Africans won 4-2 against the host nation.
With the Pro Series Indoor launching on the same day, the crowd was full of excited youngsters and hockey lovers.
It was always going to be a historic first goal when it arrived, and the crowd did not have long to wait. Just 50 seconds in and Eloise Walter gave the SPAR-sponsored South Africa the lead.
But if they thought it was going to be a routine win, they would be very wrong.
Zimbabwe took the game to South Africa with Iman Johnson being particularly impressive. Zimbabwe almost pulled level with their historic first-ever home goal coming through their oldest player Nicola Watson.
South Africa extended their lead when skipper Cindy Hack scored from a penalty corner. It was a well worked goal through combination play with Jamie Southgate.
Zimbabwe refused to lie down and threw everything they could which was rewarded with a punch of penalty corners. At the fifth attempt, they finally converted one when Michelle Williams fired home a bullet.
The parity in the game did not last long as Edith Molikoe, making her debut for South Africa at the age of 18, produced a sublime pass that Tegan Fourie finished with the maturity that makes one forget she is still only 20!
Despite a few chances for both sides, the half ended 3-2.
The second half saw improved defensive play from South Africa that limited chances for Zimbabwe, who exerted everything in the first half.
The African champions created multiple chances but were unable to convert and were denied by some great goalkeeping by Cripstone in the second half.
They also failed to convert a penalty stroke when Tegan Fourie struck the upright. At this point, Zimi Shange was brought on to earn her first cap for South Africa.
The goal that looked like it was always going to come, eventually did when Robyn Johnson showed some remarkable skill in her sixth Test to score her fourth international goal.
Having dealt with a superb crowd for the home team, a quick turf, the light element that was challenging and adapting to new players in the squad, it was job done for coach Lennie Botha and his team.
They would have identified areas to work on, but overall there will be satisfaction with the result.
New internationally capped players Shange and Molikoe shared their thoughts after the game.
‘I am so excited to be part of this historic indoor test series and to be able to wear the national colours is a huge honour,’ said Shange, while Molikoe added: ‘It’s a privilege to be able to represent your country at any level and I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity! We will make our country proud.’
Remaining matches of the Indoor Test Series
11 August (10am) – Second Test, 11 August (6pm) – Third Test, 12 August (4pm) – Fourth Test, 13 August (4pm) – Fifth Test
Photo: The SA side line up for the national anthem in Harare, by SA Hockey