7 August 2012
Wow! Where did that come from? The previously winless South African women’s hockey team delivered a scintillating performance at the Riverbank Arena on Monday to thrash the USA 7-0 in a pool B clash at the London Olympic Games.
South Africa, ranked 12th in the world, had gone into the contest needing to win by six goals to finish above the Americans, whose world ranking is sixth, in their pool. They went one better and delivered seven with a strong performance from first whistle to last.
The domination was underlined by the total number of shots the teams had on goal. South Africa had 27, the USA just six.
The South African penalty corner, which had not produced a goal in the tournament until then, proved to be very effective as the team netted four goals from 10 corners. The Americans forced five short corners without managing a goal.
In their previous matches, the South African team had misfired to an extent, they had missed chances they might have taken on another day, some bad luck had befallen them, but against the USA everything clicked.
The tempo and intensity of the South African effort was impressive, especially so since it never flagged throughout the game. The ball movement was good and Marsha Marescia and company proved very effective down the flanks.
Hurried and hassled
They hurried and hassled the Americans when they were in possession, quickly forcing a turnover of possession, or conceding a free hit to slow down the opposition’s attack.
Tarryn Bright, who played a commanding role in the midfield, struck twice, Pietie Coetzee added two goals from penalty corners, and Lesley-Ann George, Dirkie Chamberlain and Jen Wilson also got onto the scoreboard.
Coetzee, the all-time leading goal scorer in women’s international hockey, is now just two goals shy of 250 in an outstanding career.
“We struggled to find rhythm at the beginning of the week,” Bright said after the match. “Each game we have played better and finally we got it together today.”
‘A very good feeling’
She added: “Today, the first goal made all the difference. Before this match we hadn’t scored any goals from the penalty corners. It was a good way to finish. It is a very good feeling to have won so well.
“We are pleased. It was an excellent performance from the whole team, definitely our best performance of the tournament.”
The USA’s Katie Reinprecht commented: “South Africa came out super-aggressive. They really put us under the pump. I will give them credit. They were lethal on the circle. They got us pretty good.”
Coach Giles Bonnet’s charges will next face Japan on Wednesday for ninth place.
Since 1996, South Africa has produced two medal winners in the 800 metres, with Hezekiel Sepeng claiming silver in Atlanta, and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi winning another silver in Athens. The country’s hopes in the event in London lie with Andre Olivier.
Olivier, a bronze medal winner at the World Junior Championships in 2008, contested the first round of the 800 metres on Monday. The top three finishers in each of the seven heats were guaranteed a place in the semi-finals, along with the next two fastest men.
Running in the final heat, Olivier ran with a plan in mind and finished third in 1:46.42 to secure his place in Tuesday’s semi-finals.
There will be three semi-final races, with the top two from each race going through, as well as the two fastest men besides them.
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