Words: Jonathan Cook | Photo: Ady Kerry
After a tentative start, unforced errors a fault, the Investec South Africa women's hockey team got back on track in beating Wales 8-2 on the final day of round-robin action during the Investec Cup at London’s national hockey stadium late Saturday afternoon after leading 4-0 at half-time.
SA needed an emphatic win to ensure a place in Sunday's 6.15 pm SA time gold medal match against world number six England. And so it shall be, barring the most unlikely defeat by rank underdogs Scotland of title favourites England by four clear goals in the late-night game.
SA’s shaky start was put right in the sixth minute when the in-form attacking midfielder Shelley Russell embarked on a left-to-right diagonal run into the strike zone before a clinical backhand finish set her team 1-0 to the good.
A Celia Evans goal in the 10th after a rebound off goalkeeper Ria Male's leg guards following a Lisa Deetlefs' penalty corner slap shot put SA 2-0 ahead before first Bernie Coston and then Wales' Joanne Westwood showed enormous commitment to clear off their respective goal-lines.
Then in the 21st the inspired Russell skinned the Welsh defence around the outside before flipping a pass to the perfectly placed Jade Mayne who tapped in on the reverse stick for 3-0.
In the 25th the on song Illse Davids found time and space to rifle the sweetest of backhands into the back of the net and SA had established a comfy four-goal cushion.
Davids was struck a fearful blow three seconds from half-time and had to limp off but the Capetonian and her team- mates had done enough to set up Sunday’s 6.15pm SA time date for gold with old foes England.
A brace of second-half goals by Tarryn Bright – a 38th minute PC and a 58th minute strike from field play – added to Kathleen Taylor’s goalshot in the 42nd and fellow forward Dirkie Chamberlain’s success following a PC in the 52nd put the issue beyond doubt, although two Welsh goals via the PC route from Emma Batten in the 45th and Eloise Laity in the 70th and final minute might have unsettled the SA camp a touch as the final countdown to the battle with the English began in earnest.
The final of the men's event sees England against Ireland at 3.45pm SA time. The SA men play Scotland for the bronze medal at 10.45am SA time. Wales' women face Scotland in the 1.15pm third/fourth place showdown.
Interview with Kurt
Interview with Mayne
Interview with Shelley Russell