17 June 2014
The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team defeated Japan 2-0 on Friday to finish ninth at the Hockey World Cup in The Hague in the final match of Pietie Coetzee’s illustrious international career.
Coetzee, the world record goal-scorer, netted her 282nd goal in her 287th test match to give South Africa the lead after 59 minutes.
Her penalty corner success, which came via a trademark drag-flick, was followed in the 69th minute by a goal from Dirkie Chamberlain, who scored from the penalty spot, after fellow striker Kathleen Taylor was upended in Japanese D.
Japan goalkeeper Yuka Yoshikawa had plenty to do in a repeat of the London Olympic Games playoff for ninth place, which the Japanese had won in extra time.
She made a number of fine saves, while at the other end of the pitch her counterpart Anelle Deventer mixed lengthy periods of inactivity with two crucial saves at close-range.
South Africa were were again lacking at penalty corner time, scoring just once from nine corners, while Japan managed only one goal-scoring chance from the set-piece play.
As they had in the majority of their matches, the world number 11 South Africans dominated the statistics against the world’s ninth-ranked team. The victory sets them up well for the Investec Cup, which takes place in London in July, to be followed by the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Looking back on the amazing career of Pietie Coetzee, perhaps the most amazing statistic is that she achieved so much despite retiring for five years at the age of 27, when at the peak of her powers.
Coetzee, who was a late call-up for the tournament in The Hague and played as a right half instead of her usual position of striker, played the game for enjoyment and admitted said that she was burnt out to a degree from the goal-scoring pressure and expectations.
In 2011, at the Champions Challenge tournament in Dublin, Ireland, Coetzee broke Russian Natalya Krasnikova’s world record 220 of goals with a first-half hat-trick that fittingly consisted of every method of scoring in hockey – a field goal, a penalty stroke and a penalty corner – in a match against the USA.
Return from retirement
She first retired in 2005, having scored 189 goals in 191 test matches. However, with Giles Bonnet newly installed in the coaching hot seat, sharpshooter Coetzee returned five years later at the Hockey World Cup 2010 in Rosario, Argentina, and carried on where she left off, adding 93 more goals in just 96 test matches.
Modest and never one to be impressed by records, especially her goal tally, Coetzee always emphasised that it was the team that counted.
An iconic figure in women’s sport in South Africa, she runs coaching clinics as a professional coach, which is a business she hopes to build now that she had retired.
Coetzee made her debut as a 16-year-old, Grade 11, schoolgirl at a tournament in the United States in 1996. She played in three Olympic Games – Sydney, Australia in 2000, Athens, Greece in 2004 and in London 2012 – as well as two World Cups, at Delhi in India in 2010 and finally, The Hague in The Netherlands in 2014.