News

Jonathan Cook
2 minute read
3 May 2014
6:40 am

SA women’s hockey team chasing final spot

Jonathan Cook

On the back of a stirring 2-1 win over Scotland in the quarterfinals, the mood in the Investec South African women's hockey team camp is one of quiet confidence as they make final preparations for today's 3pm (SA time) semifinal against Ireland in the Champions Challenge at Glasgow Green.

SA striker Sulette Damons during the Champions Challenge in Glasgow. Picture: RODRIGO JARAMILLO

“It was a great game for us; the manner in which we played was quite inspirational,” said coach Giles Bonnet yesterday. “It’s great to see a new crop of players beginning to establish themselves.

“What I like is the way the team has bought into a new style of play that is about speed, an aggressive brand in terms of playing direct hockey; going forward, creating a lot of goalscoring opportunities. We created close to 35 goal shots in the last four matches, more than any other side here.”

There was certainly a massive change in the team dynamic against Scotland, also seen in the second half against the United States on day two, which resulted in a 2-1 victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

The uncertainty, the hesitancy, in Pool B was evident in the patchy 1-1 draw with Spain – as well as the 2-2 result against Ireland on day one. It’s almost like the South Africans need to get a bit annoyed, a bit of attitude, before they show their best hockey.

Celebration time for the SA women's hockey team's (from left) Dirkie Chamberlain, Quanita Bobbs, goalscorer Shelley Russell, Lenise Marais, Kathleen Taylor and captain Marsha Cox during the girls in green and gold's 2-1 win over Scotland in the Champions Challenge quarter-finals in Glasgow Thursday night. SA play Ireland in Saturday's 3pm (SA time) semi-final. Picture: RODRIGO JARAMILLO

Celebration time for the SA women’s hockey team’s (from left) Dirkie Chamberlain, Quanita Bobbs, goalscorer Shelley Russell, Lenise Marais, Kathleen Taylor and captain Marsha Cox during the girls in green and gold’s 2-1 win over Scotland in the Champions Challenge quarter-finals in Glasgow Thursday night. SA play Ireland in Saturday’s 3pm (SA time) semi-final. Picture: RODRIGO JARAMILLO

“Ireland are very tough; what they might lack technically, you cannot fault them in terms of mentality. A team that works well together, they will be formidable opponents,” said Bonnet.

Apart from the heartening confidence shown against Scotland, what is exciting was the high energy of the entire team, exemplified by striker Sulette Damons and midfielder Shelley Russell, as well as the manner in which Lisa Deetlefs, in central defence and penalty corner strikes, and Anelle van Deventer in goal are making their presence felt.

SA manager and goalkeeping coach Sheldon Rostron’s hard work is building depth in the stopper department, and the team has the luxury of a double Olympian, Sanani Mangisa – having come back from a career-threatening injury – on the subs’ bench.

If the South Africans can play with the same energy and urgency, attack the Irish when in possession and when not, the lasses from the Emerald Isle will be hurried into mistakes, which leaves Damons and Russell the time and space to counter-attack at speed.

The SA girls were the Bravehearts against the Scots – and the hearts of braves will be needed against the feisty Irish, who shocked tournament favourites and world No 8 South Korea 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

Tomorrow’s bronze medal match is at 4.30pm (SA time) and the gold medal title match, and a place in the top-tier Champions Trophy, is at 6.45pm (SA time).