Johannesburg - South Africa’s women’s hockey team, superbly led by Marsha Marescia, beat world number four Britain 3-1 after leading 2-0 at half-time on the first day of the London Cup in Chiswick on Tuesday.
World number 12 South Africa’s Sulette Damons and Bernie Coston scored brilliant first-half goals with a third forward, Jen Wilson, getting on the scoresheet 12 minutes from time.
Susannah Gilbert replied for Britain six minutes from the end, but the damage had already been done.
“It was a fantastic win in difficult conditions,” South Africa's assistant coach Fabian Gregory said afterwards.
“Our defence was outstanding, as they put us under pressure at times, and while we would have liked more opportunities, we took our chances.
“It came down to who wanted it more,” said Marescia.
“There was a calmness on the field when Britain came back at us and we knew we could keep our lead.”
In the fifth minute, Marescia fed Shelley Russell, who returned the pass at the right moment. Marescia then freed up striker Damons, who cracked a sizzling shot from the top of the strike zone past world-rated goalkeeper Beth Storry (1-0).
At the other end, South Africa’s outstanding defensive work kicked into gear when a composed Kate Woods got South Africa out of a tight spot and then Russell shepherded an attacker out of harm’s way.
Lisa Deetlefs, Lenise Marais, goalkeeper Mariette Rix were just three of the South Africans among many who made critical tackles in defence during this enthralling match.
In the 10th minute, Marescia embarked on a left-right diagonal run and laid-off to Coston cutting in from the right, and the forward stroked a stunning strike into the roof of the net.
Britain were missing captain Kate Walsh and fellow central defender Crista Cullen, as well as Sarah Thomas and striker Alex Danson, but this win will do South Africa a power of good ahead of London 2012, which is just seven weeks away.
South Africa meet world number three Germany at 9pm South African time on Wednesday.
With just this Germany match left in the pool in this six-nation event, South Africa are in the pound seats to get into Saturday’s semi-finals. - Sapa