Johannesburg - The cards have been drawn for Saturday’s semi-finals of the Investec Challenge following Thursday night’s thrilling action at Hartleyvale Stadium in Cape Town, which saw Australia edge England 3-1 and the Netherlands better the South African women’s hockey team by the same scoreline.
Both matches saw the winners lead 1-0 at half-time and featured constant yet varied bombardment of each goalmouth - and had it not been for superlative saves by the world-class keepers on display the goals wouldn’t have stopped coming.
London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallists the Netherlands will meet London 2012 bronze medallists England (playing as Great Britain) in Saturday’s semi-final at 2.30pm and the Hockeyroos of Oz will square up to the girls in green and gold at 5pm.
The difference in both matches came to penalty corner time, from which the Aussies directly scored two, a feat that was repeated by The Netherlands.
While South Africa did score from a penalty corner rebound, it was the direct penalty corner drag-flicks in both attack and defence, which were the trump cards for the four teams.
There was frustration, too, for world record sharpshooter Pietie Coetzee, who went scoreless for the second match in a row despite firing in her shots from all angles in the strike zone.
On another day Coetzee would have scored a hatful, while her team-mates are also creating enough chances of their own to suggest that South Africa’s head coach Giles Bonnet, his trainers and the team are well on the road to Rio 2016, not to mention Hockey World Cup 2014 in The Hague and 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
This Netherlands team is very, very good - their ability to more or less keep South Africa’s hungry attackers at bay for long periods is coupled with gold medal quality at scoring goals when it matters.
If the Hockeyroos’ bruising 1-1 draw with South Africa on Tuesday night is the blueprint - a match in which high-class skills were exhibited, the late semi-final between Australia and South Africa is certain to draw crowds in even bigger numbers than Thursday’s great turnout.
Thursday’s 8pm match saw The Netherlands beat South Africa 3-1 with the Oranje’s goals coming from penalty corners by Irene van den Assem and captain Maartje Paumen (2) while South Africa captain Marsha Marescia had her name on the scoresheet.
The early match saw Australia beat England 3-1 with goals from Anna Flanagan and Jody Schulz penalty corners, as well as a field goal from Georgia Nanscawen, while Nic White pulled one back for the English. - Sapa