South Africa celebrate their win over the USA. Photo: Aubrey KgakatsiBackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Digging deep to secure a playoff berth, the Proteas women beat the United States 3-2 in a gutsy performance at the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Candice Manuel scored a brace of goals while Jade Mayne also got on to the scoresheet.

South Africa would be questioning why they could not string together more performances like this in their earlier matches in the tournament.

Battling to convert their opportunities into points, South Africa had scored only one goal before this do-or-die encounter.

The hosts played with a greater sense of urgency as they fought their way back twice in the match.

South Africa had to beat the United States to advance to the quarter-finals after they had drawn their opening match against India before losing 3-1 to Argentina and 1-0 against Chile.

The visitors opened the scoring courtesy of Melissa Gonzalez.

Refusing to give up, South Africa launched a few promising attacks through the middle but found greater penetration on the right-hand side.

Shelley Jones proved a handful on attack for South Africa and played a leading role in the first goal.

Racing down the right-hand side from a counter-attack, Jones passed the ball inside to Sulette Damons, who played it across the face of the box to Mayne for the goal.

The sides went into the halftime break level with South Africa still in with a chance of claiming a crucial victory.

The United States regained the lead at the end of the third quarter with Jill Witmer landing the blow to leave South Africa with another mountain to climb.

With 11 minutes left on the clock, Bernie Coston produced some magic inside the circle as she beat the keeper before playing in Manuel, who put the ball into the back of the net.

Two minutes later, Manuel handed South Africa the lead for the first time in the match with a back-handed blow working a tight angle into the left-hand corner.

The final minutes of the match were characterised by some ill-discipline, with Manuel and America’s Michelle VIttese earning yellow cards at the same time.

South Africa earned two more green cards in the last five minutes as they not only managed to keep the United States out but also threatened to score the fourth goal.

They next face Germany on Tuesday.

The Star

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