Sulette Damons of South Africa is challenged by Florencia Habif of Argentina. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu /BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - The South African women’s hockey team came painstakingly close to causing a major upset at the World League Hockey League semi-finals at the Wits Hockey Club when they took an early lead over Argentina before going down three goals to one.

The 13th ranked Proteas looked rather shell-shocked during the opening salvos of the match but got their tails up going into the half-time break with a 1-0 advantage.

Soaking up the early pressure from the world No 3 side, South Africa’s defence kept the opposition out of the box and played themselves into contention. 

They managed to get through the first quarter unscathed before they scored courtesy of a Bernie Coston goal in the 28th minute.

The South Americans went into the break frustrated after they could not convert the pressure they exerted in the first half. By the end of the first 30 minutes, they had made five shots at goal, compared to South Africa’s two. They also made 20 circle penetrations to 10 with nothing to show for their efforts.

While South Africa were growing in confidence, Argentina continued to apply goal-box pressure with the Proteas defence holding firm.

The match swung in Argentina’s favour when they were awarded a penalty in the 41st minute with Noel Barrionuevo obliging to level the scores.

Emboldened by the goal, Argentina upped the ante as they played with greater composure, leaving South Africa mostly on the defensive for the rest of the match.

The Argentines showed their class and experience at the highest level by adding two more goals to the scoreline courtesy of captain Delfina Merino and Florencia Habif to seal the victory.

The defeat leaves South Africa in fourth place, one point ahead of Chile, who they will face tomorrow in a crucial match to remain in contention for a quarter-finals berth.

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The Star