Cape Town – In arguably one of the finest performances of her distinguished 317-Test match career, inspirational captain Marsha Cox inspired the world number 11 Investec South Africa women’s hockey team to a thoroughly deserved 1-0 victory over world number four Australia at Hartleyvale Stadium Friday night after the score was 0-0 at half-time.
SA controlled probably 70% of the second Test and another celebrated superstar, Pietie Coetzee, scored the winner in the 58th minute when Cox fed the world record Test match goalscorer, who used her all her experience and awareness to give herself room to unreel a magnificent backhand shot that smashed into the backboard behind outstanding Aussie keeper Rachael Lynch. It was the astonishing Coetzee’s 278th goal in her 277th Test match.
SA now cannot lose the series. The first Test was drawn 3-3 and the third and final Test is at the same venue 4pm Saturday. The Hartleyvale Summer Series does not end there, however, as the first of six Tests against world number 12 Belgium begins 4pm Sunday.
SA’s Dirkie Chamberlain and Ilse Davids celebrated their 150th and 100th Test matches respectively when their mothers handed over bouquets of flowers before the first whistle.
Both sides transferred the ball with precision and invention from the outset, with Cox in scintillating form. The action was end to end, with the Aussies also coming to the party but there was little doubt that SA were showing improved vision than in the first Test.
However, the Hockeyroos won the first penalty corner in the 10th minute after a deliberate breakdown by the South Africans in the 23m area. Jodie Schulz’s conventional hit went past the near post. The Aussies were also full value on the breakout and in the 12th minute a 60-metre pass found Kellie White, whose shot was well saved by keeper Phume Mbande.
Lenise Marais earned SA’s first PC and Coetzee’s drag-flick was saved by Lynch. The defending on both sides was solid yet in the 28th minute Kathleen Taylor won SA’s second PC and Quanita Bobbs’s flick was glove-saved by Lynch to the keeper’s right.
Two minutes from half-time (33rd) a stunning move saw SA’s Tarryn Bright throw an accurate aerial pass to Coetzee that broke the Aussies’ defensive screen wide open. The in-form Coetzee passed to the equally on-song Shelley Russell, whose shot was stopped by Lynch. Coetzee was then agonisingly unfortunate not to scramble the ball over the goalline.
The 0-0 half-time score didn’t reflect how well SA played, the ball-carriers’ close control a feature.
Australia started the second half with intent but the first real chance came in the 48th minute when Chamberlain was desperately unlucky from close. With 14 minutes left the Aussies could have made much more of a breakaway chance after a superb aerial long ball.
But the crowd’s spontaneous reaction in the 58th minute when Cox fed Coetzee for the latter’s match-winner bore witness to the pivotal moment that decided the outcome of the most pulsating of contests.
Eight minutes from the end Coetzee shot wide after the pacy Bernie Coston had turned over Aussie ball with a well-timed intercept, but in the final analysis it didn’t matter a jot.
(all at Hartleyvale)
January: vs Australia: Saturday 25th (4pm)
vs Belgium: Sunday 26th (4pm); Tuesday 28th (8pm); Wednesday 29th (7pm); Friday 31st (7pm)
February: vs Belgium: Sunday 2nd (4 pm); Monday 3rd (7 pm)