Hockey: SA lead arch-rivals India in race for London 2012 Olympics

2011-12-19 00:00

AN inspired South Africa women’s hockey team gave everything to beat India 2-1 in Parana, Argentina, late on Saturday night (SA time).

Their win qualified the team to face world champions Argentina in the Four Nations final at 1 am today.

Against India, SA’s goals came from penalty corner goals from Kate Woods in the first half and outstanding captain Marsha Marescia in the second half. India scored from a Kaur Jaspreet corner.

It was a gutsy performance in which every South African played a part, right down to the coaching staff, who had devised a game plan that stifled the skilful Indians for much of the time. The girls in green and gold also produced moments of magic with the stick and it was a collective effort of which they could be proud.

Captain Marsha Marescia’s side had to beat India to qualify for their second successive Four Nations final against Argentina, having been shaded 2-1 in the gold medal match in Buenos Aires last weekend, while India needed a draw.

SA can draw heart from Friday’s heart-stopping 2-1 round-robin defeat to Argentina’s darling Las Leonas (Lionesses), a match they could well have won on another day, and the Parana final is set to be another heart-stopping affair chockfull of drama and skill.

In the late game Leonas were not all that impressive in beating a determined Ireland 2-1.

On Friday South Africa didn’t allow Leonas to settle into their rhythm and could do so again if they play their cards right.

SA will be without a major player in Lesle-Ann George (ankle), but Shelley Russell (hamstring) was able to play against India and was a constant thorn in coach Raj Kumar’s side.

SA dealt another psychological blow against the impressive India combination and have now won the last three encounters after India won the previous two.

The two sides are arch-rivals for the London 2012 Olympic Games place that is on offer when the Olympic qualifier tournament takes place in Delhi in February.

In preparation for Delhi, SA will tackle Spain, Ireland and Belgium in the Investec international series at Randburg Hockey Stadium beginning mid-January. World record goal scorer Pietie Coetzee and a number of other players should return to action for this series to bolster the SA side.

 

REMAINING FIXTURES (SA time): Today: Gold medal match - Argentina vs South Africa (1 am).

Results to date – Wednesday: SA 2 Ireland 2; Argentina 3 India 1. Thursday: India 2 Ireland 1; Argentina 2 SA 1. Saturday: SA 2 India 1; Argentina 2 Ireland 1.

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