Women’s hockey: SA give a plucky showing against world’s best

2011-07-28 00:00

THE world’s best women’s hockey team, Holland, beat a brave young Investec South Africa 5-0 after leading 2-0 at half-time in the first of the two-Test series in the leafy town of Ede in the Netherlands late yesterday afternoon, a match in which the tourists’ finishing again let them down.

Holland dominated the first half and were rewarded with a brace of penalty corner goals from ace drag-flicker and captain Maartje Paumen. After the changeover, Ellen Hoog picked up two more — her second goal in the second-last minute of an exciting Test match — while dangerous Dutch striker Kim Lammers got the other.

Going into the fourth Test match in five days on their whistle-stop nine-day, eight-match tour of Europe, Investec SA were missing 700 Test caps-worth of experience in four key players who stayed at home due to exam commitments and injury, including world record goalscorer Pietie Coet­zee, but the spirited young side led by experienced World All Stars 2010 midfielder Marsha Marescia were good enough to create a number of chances that might have resulted in goals on another day.

Midway through the first half, with the scoreline still reading 0-0, Investec South Africa’s Celia Evans, the impressive Jade Mayne and Shelley Russell all fired in shots in quick succession, but Dutch goalkeeper Floortje Engels was on hand to make a series of miraculous saves. That said, seven penalty corners without reply and a number of superb saves by SA keeper Hanli Hattingh spoke volumes for Holland’s dominance of territory and possession.

Holland bagged two goals soon after half-time and were tightening the screws on the SA youngsters when the game turned around in a wonderful 20-minute period for the never-say-die girls in the green and gold.

A penetrating run down the left wing by the pacy Sulette Damons produced an opportunity for Kelly Madsen, but goalkeeper Engels was in the right spot to block the shot. Quick SA midfielder Shelley Russell and her team-mates in the engine room ran hard at the Dutch defenders, who were on the back foot for much of the time, but the hard-earned experience that saw the girls in orange come back from a two-goal deficit to beat 2010 World Cup winners Argentina in the Champions Trophy final less than a month ago was evident in how they weathered the storm.

Nevertheless, the young South Africans can take much heart from their performance against a team including superstars in Paumen and Boksburg-born Marilyn Agliotti, who represented South Africa at the Sydney 2000 Olympics before emigrating.

The second Test starts at 4.15 pm Thursday before SA fly to Dublin, Ireland, for three Tests against Scotland on neutral territory.

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