The SPAR South Africa indoor side sealed the first ever indoor hockey Test series in Zimbabwe as they won both Test matches played at Hellenic Academy in Harare at the weekend.
The series, being played in conjunction with the launch of the Pro Series Indoor in Zimbabwe, is a fantastic sign of the sport’s growth in Africa.
In the morning Test, the South African and Zimbabwean women played out a scrappy game with the amount of chances proving far less than in the opening Test. South Africa started Zimi Shange in goals, her first International start, and she was arguably the busier keeper in the early stages as the high press from Zimbabwe reaped benefits.
Zimbabwe’s inability to take chances at key moments was a big area they were looking to improve on, but they would probably be frustrated by the profligacy in front of goal. South Africa were building momentum in the game and although they made plenty of circle entries they were left frustrated that they did not test Jaime Haasbroek in the Zimbabwe goals enough.
The game was crying out for a moment of quality and that’s exactly what one can expect from national captain Cindy Hack. Creating a pocket of space, Hack lined up to strike and as the defenders moved she sliced off a beautiful cross that Tegan Fourie finished for her 13th International goal in her 11th match for South Africa.
Incredibly it was the only goal of a game that saw stoppers Jordyn Cripstone and Shange silence anything that was thrown their way. The win put South Africa on the verge of a series victory, which they would look to clinch in the evening game.
South Africa were in far more clinical mood in the evening game and played some spells of truly scintillating hockey. Zimbabwe, to their credit, put in a significant effort to stay with their neighbours but when the South African women turn it on and click as a combination there are few defences that would cope.
There was a great moment when South Africa scored their first as Edith Molikoe got onto the end of a superb team movement to score her first International goal. It was an absolutely exquisite ball from Eloise Walters that left Molikoe with the opportunity. It was 2-0 a few minutes later when Hack set up Fourie just as she did in the first game and the youngster scored her 14th international goal, matching her shirt number! Hack was at it again when she combined wonderfully with Molikoe and unselfishly gave the ball to the youngster to finish into an empty net.
There was time for one more in the half as Jessica O’Connor got in on the action with a low drive that beat Haasbroek in the goal. That was the end of a very satisfactory first half for South Africa and coach Lennie Botha would be much happier with that performance.
After a static opening 10 minutes of the second half, the game raised its intensity when Zimbabwe were given a penalty stroke. Nicole Grant dispatched the stroke with the ferocity of West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle hitting a six.
That woke South Africa up from their temporary slumber and they fired in two quick goals. First, it was O’Connor with her own net-bursting flick before Fourie got her second of the night to make it 6-1. Cheree Greyvenstein made a fantastic save with her helmet as Zimbabwe asked questions but each one was answered with confidence.
There was time for one more Zimbabwe goal to the delight of their home crowd, but in truth, South Africa managed the game well and were never in major trouble.
South Africa have now won the series but will still be in action for two more entertaining Test matches over the next two days.
Photo: the jubilant South African side after sealing the series in Zimbabwe, by SA Hockey