THE South Africa women’s hockey team won the five-Test Investec International Series against Spain 2-1 after the final international ended 1-1 at Randburg yesterday.
SA trailed 1-0 at half-time in the fifth Test of the Investec International Series after Spanish captain Julia Menendez’s superb goal in the 14th minute, but a lightning-enforced delay with 29 minutes left was kind to the girls in green and gold as world record goal scorer Pietie Coetzee scored the vital equaliser to deny the Spaniards a series-equalling victory.
SA were intent on winning the match or at least earning a draw, which would give them the series 3-1 or 2-1 respectively, while Spain were all out to level the series 2-2 with the first Test drawn. The second Test went 3-2 to Spain, the third 3-1 to SA and the fourth 3-0 to SA.
Play swung to and fro from the outset, Spain were still the better team in terms of keeping the ball through the phases and they made the breakthrough when Maria Tost’s thrust up the right channel set up Menendez’s blast into the net (1-0).
SA went in search of the equaliser from the re-start, but Coetzee’s rocket shot went into the side-netting.
Then 13 minutes from half-time Jade Mayne did well to create something for Lauren Penny, but it was a 30-70 chance.
However, Spain’s dynamism down the right continued to trouble SA and centre back Kate Woods made a critical clearance. Carlota Petchame, Spain’s best player, was a thorn in SA’s side wherever she popped up with the ball, her enviable close control an inspiration to watch. Olalla Pineiro was not far behind.
With three minutes to half-time, Illse Davids’ superb reverse-stick pass set up the match’s first penalty corner, but keeper Isabel Barguno stopped Woods’s shot. SA won their second penalty corner on the hooter, but a possible equaliser was not to be. Two minutes after the changeover, the talented Olivia Pineiro made ground in close confines, but her shot sizzled past the post. After six minutes, play was halted due to thunder and lightning.
Almost an hour later play resumed and the crowd erupted when Coetzee equalised (1-1). Play ebbed and flowed with both sides having opportunities, but striker Lauren Penny and captain Marsha Marescia were instrumental in SA finishing the stronger side to seal the 2-1 series victory.
Marescia picked up the Investec Player of the Series Trophy just ahead of Petchame and Woods.
SA have a short break before the Investec Tri-Nations, which includes Belgium and Ireland, kicks off on Wednesday, continuing until February 6 — all at Randburg
Meanwhile, the SA men’s side let slip a 3-0 half-time lead to draw 3-3 with eight-time Olympic Gold medallists India in the fifth and final Test in Delhi on Sunday.
SA scored first-half goals through Ricky West in the 26th minute, Ian Haley (31st) and Miguel da Graca (34th) with India replying after half-time via the sticks of Yuvraj Walmiki (43rd), V. R. Raghunath (49th) and S.K. Uthappa, who equalised four minutes from the final whistle.
India won the series 3-1.