South Africa’s women’s hockey team will be plucking the positives out of their opening Pool A match defeat to England before they take on Malaysia on Saturday, writes GARY LEMKE in Gold Coast, Australia.
It was a case of too little too late as Sulette Damons and the rest of her charges took too long to grow into the contest and against opposition as good as England – they’re not ranked No 2 in the world for nothing – they were always playing catch up. A flurry of early penalty corners resulted in Grace Balsdon converting one of them in the 11th minute and when Susannah Townsend made it 2-0 in the 20th minute, there were genuine concerns that things could get messy for the South Africans.
However, from there they worked hard to close down the spaces England were creating and hauled themselves back into the contest under leaden skies. Perhaps fortunately for them though, the result wasn’t as damaging as it might have been early on in their Commonwealth Games campaign.
Earlier in the day, at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre, Wales sprung an upset when they beat India 3-2. India, ranked No 10 in the world, went down to their 26th-ranked opponents, which has thrown an early spanner in the works.
‘We shouldn’t be relying on others to do our job for us, but in the context of the tournament it’s an interesting result,’ admitted coach Sheldon Roston afterwards. He admitted that his team wasn’t on top of their game, but that there’s enough to work on going forward.
‘It was never going to be easy after giving away an early goal against them. This was always going to be one of our toughest matches and we were obviously hoping for a closer scoreline. The next few games are important and we should get stronger. Our defensive disciplines let us down and one or two key players didn’t manage the situation well enough.
‘But, these are a couple of small areas to work on and we left two goals out there ourselves. With better quality of our service and better execution, we could have been in it. I’m happy with our play in general and with our penetration,’ Roston said.
England however, dominated the match stats and not only the main one that counts – the scoreboard. They had six penalty corners to South Africa’s two, got into the SA circle 30 times as opposed to 15 times by South Africa and had seven shots as opposed to five.
Yet, it was South Africa who finished the stronger after that sluggish start. Dirkie Chamberlain twice tested England’s Madeleine Hinch in the fourth quarter, only for the goalkeeper to be equal to the task with a reflex right-hand block being the pick of the saves. Chamberlain had three shots, while Lisa-Marie Deetlefs and Damons also had attempts, but truth be told England never looked overly troubled.
Photo: Quanita Bobbs in action, courtesy Anton Geyser/Saspa