Words by: Jonathan Cook
The world’s 11th-ranked South Africa women’s hockey team’s energy and pace will be key factors in the much-anticipated Commonwealth Games semi-final in Glasgow against world number two, reigning Commonwealth Games champions and 2014 World Cup finalists Australia in the 1.15 pm SA time clash that will be on SuperSport 7 and SHD7 from 1.05 pm today (Friday).
Photo credit: Ady Kerry
The second semi-final sees New Zealand face England, which is on the same channels from 3.20pm.
SA, very unlucky to be edged 1-0 by England in the CG bronze medal match at Delhi 2010 – their best finish at this event - will be led by celebrated captain Marsha Cox, just a couple of internationals away from a record 350 Test matches for South Africa.
The iconic Cox was named Friday morning as one of the finalists for the Africa News Network 7 (ANN7) Sportsperson of the Year award alongside South African legends such as Chad le Clos and Hashim Amla and will be a central figure for her team.
Much will depend on SA’s ability to negate Australia’s penalty corner prowess, where leading CG goalscorer Jody Kenny is the ace drag-flicker.
Australia, winners of three of the four CG women’s hockey titles since the sport was introduced to this quadrennial showpiece in 1998, have been streets ahead of their opposition at attacking set-pieces and SA’s penalty corner strategy in defence will surely be tested to the full.
Both teams’ road to the semi-final makes for interesting reading:
Eight days ago, Australia’s Hockeyroos started relatively slowly, beating world number 21 and CG 2014 seventh-place finishers Malaysia 4-0 after leading just 1-0 at half-time.
The Roos had 21 goalshots in the match, but a concern was that their much-vaunted PC attack only converted one of 10 attempts.
SA overwhelmed world 31 and 10th and last-placed CG finishers Trinidad & Tobago 16-0 after leading 7-0 at half-time. There were hat-tricks for strikers Celia Evans and Dirkie Chamberlain with Kathleen Taylor, Tarryn Bright and Sulette Damons getting a brace apiece.
A remarkable 41 SA goalshots included a very good three from 10 PC strike rate.
Last Friday, despite an impressive 25 goalshots, SA let themselves down in the strike zone during a 2-0 win over world 22 and CG 2014 eighth-place finishers Canada after a 0-0 scoreline at half-time.
Australia’s second match was a comprehensive 9-0 win over world 32 and ninth-place CG 2014 finishers Wales after leading 5-0 at half-time, the Roos getting in 30 goalshots and netting four from 13 PCs, Kenny notching up a hat-trick.
Last Sunday, in probably the Roos’ most impressive performance, they beat world 16 and CG 2014 sixth place finishers Scotland 9-0, this against a host nation who ran world six and CG 2014 semi-finalists England so very close in a nail-biting 2-1 defeat in what was effectively a CG quarter-final two days ago. Scotland should have beaten the fully professional England side in that match.
The Aussie PC machine clicked into high gear, scoring a remarking seven goals from 12 PCs, Kenny netting another hat-trick and Anna Flanagan a brace.
Two goals from 15 chances in field play was less impressive but a 9-0 win it was. Significantly, nine successful strikes past the rated Great Britain squad goalkeeper Amy Gibson.
SA produced one of their best efforts in four years when they took on world number four New Zealand, the CG 2010 finalists, being shaded 2-1 after the scores were locked 1-1 at the changeover.
The teams were neck-and-neck throughout, SA getting in nine goalshots to the Kiwis’ 11.
In what was effectively a quarter-final for both sides, CG 2014 fifth-place finishers India - needing victory in the last Pool match due to an inferior goal difference of four while SA needed a point, head coach Giles Bonnet’s side won by one goal in five.
SA were the better side, creating 20 goalshots to India’s 13 in the 3-2 win, this after the Africans had led 2-1 at half-time.
At 3-2 up, Bonnet’s side withstood a concerted Indian assault in the last 12 minutes, the sub-continent side getting six goalshots to nil against, but keeper Anelle van Deventer and her defence were up for the challenge.
Australia beat England 3-0, despite only winning the goalshot stakes 9-6, the difference being Kenny’s two PC strikes from her side’s five attempts.
* SA hockey men vs Canada for fifth place from 10.50 am SA time Saturday on SS7 and SHD 7