South Africa hockey girls spring surprises

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JONATHAN COOK

The South Africa U21 women’s hockey team pulled off another surprise result at the 2013 Women’s Junior World Cup in Mönchengladbach, Germany Sunday when they drew 3-3 with 2009 JWC silver medallists Argentina.

On Saturday, SA drew 3-3 with China and in both matches they showed fighting spirit in coming back with late equalisers. Although there are no junior world rankings, the senior world rankings are usually an accurate guide and SA at 11th in the world are punching above their weight in sharing the points with world number two Argentina and world number seven China.

With the top two teams from the four-team Pool B going through to Tuesday’s quarter-finals in this 16-team competition, Argentina, China South Africa are battling for those two berths and it will come down to the results of Tuesday’s final round of Pool Matches.

SA meet world number 23 Canada 30 minutes before Argentina face China, so the Chinese and Argentines will know what they have to do in the last half-hour once the SA/Canada match is over. As things currently stand, Argentina, who beat Canada 4-0 on day one, have four points with a goal difference of four, China have four points with a GD of one (the Chinese scored late against Canada for a 2-1 win Sunday), while SA have two points with a GD of nought. Canada’s two losses mean their quarter-final hopes are over.

The FIH reports that the Argentinean Leoncitas (Little Lionesses) were a goal down after only two minutes, as South Africa had won a penalty corner on their first attack and a variation allowed Nicole Walraven at the left post to make it count (1-0).

The equaliser came after a few minutes through Agustina Albertario’s superb reverse-stick effort from the top of the circle (1-1). Maria Granatto scored within two minutes and at 2-1 up Argentina looked good.

However, South Africa showed gritty determination to stay in the game, fighting the fast-paced attacks of the Leoncitas every step of the way. They contained the danger and against the run of play Suléke Brand equalised after a goalmouth scramble (2-2). Agustina Albertario then scored her second goal late in the first half to give Argentina a 3-2 lead at half-time.

After the re-start, Argentina piled on the pressure but were contained by a determined SA until Tanya Britz scored a goal from open play with four minutes left to level the scores. South Africa launched into a last-minute rush that saw them win three opportunities to bag three points, but Argentina survived.

“I don’t think anyone would have expected us to compete with such a quality team,” said SA team manager Charmaine Koekemoer. “Our defenders absorbed pressure that they have never experienced before.”

Pool B results – Argentina 4 Canada 0; SA 3 China 3; Argentina 3 SA 3; China 2 Canada 1.

There is live streaming of selected matches on splink.tv and the SA vs China match is at http://splink.tv/hockey/suedafrika-vs-china-hockey-wm-u21

SA U21 team – Bronwyn Kretzmann, Erin Hunter, Nicole la Fleur, Quanita Bobbs, Sherry King, Suléke Brand, Taryn Mallett (vice-capt), Tarryn Glasby (all Western Province); Izelle Lategan (capt), Liné Malan, Tanya Britz, Nicole Walraven (all Free State); Jacinta Jubb, Lilian du Plessis, Phume Mbande (all Northern Blues); Tiffany Jones (North West); Toni Marx (Eastern Province); Nika Nel (Southern Gauteng).