Australia or bust for SA hockey women

2009-06-05 00:00

SOUTH Africa’s task is crystal clear as they go into the penultimate day of the Spar Cup Four Nations women’s hockey tournament in Durban today — beat Australia or go bust.

Of course it’s not quite as stark as that. Even if they draw or lose and don’t make tomorrow’s 3 pm final, but give the world’s fifth-ranked Aussie team a run for their money, coach Jenny King’s SA side will have continued their encouraging form in this tournament.

Few would have predicted before the tournament that the world’s 12th-ranked team would only lose by a two-goal margin (3-1) to the fabulous Argentinians, the world number two women’s hockey nation behind the Netherlands. And a 4-1 over world number 14 India was not a prediction that would have drawn much favour either.

The impressive Aussie Hockeyroos beat India 2-1 on Monday and drew 2-2 with Argentina in a thrilling Test match at Queensmead on Wednesday, and, like the Spar South Africa team, would have used the rest day yesterday to fine-tune their strategy for toppling the host nation.

Hockeyroos coach Frank Murray’s line-up has the makings of a great team. Quick to settle into a match, they will run at the South Africans from the outset. Their policy of attacking in numbers could overwhelm King’s side if they are not ready for battle from the first whistle.

However, Murray has a lot of respect for King. He will know that his Hockeyroos have to eliminate those occasional defensive lapses that allowed both India and Argentina to come back at them. And he knows the Spar SA head coach will have identified ways for in-form strikers Vida Ryan and Shelley Russell to exploit whatever weaknesses they can find.

Co-captains Marsha Marescia and Mariette Rix will be emphasising to their Spar SA team-mates that a draw is not enough for a place in the final.

Barring a major upset against the spirited India team at 2 pm today, reigning World Player of the Year Luciana Aymar’s Argentinians are certainties for tomorrow’s gold medal match.

RESULTS

Argentina 3 South Africa 1; Australia 3 India 1; Australia 2 Argentina 2; South Africa 4 India 1.

Mini log (Goal difference, points after two Tests each): 1. Argentina +2GD, 4 points; 2. Australia +2GD, 4 pts; 3. South Africa +1GD, 3pts; 4. India –6GD, 0 pts.

FIXTURES

Today: India vs Argentina (2 pm); SA vs Australia (4 pm).

Tomorrow: bronze medal match (12.30 pm); gold medal match (3 pm).

Tickets - Adults R20; those U18 pay R10. No charge for scholars in school uniform.

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