Coetzee edges closer | SASCOC - SASCOC

Coetzee edges closer

It gets better and better for the Investec South African women’s hockey side.

Goals from Pietie Coetzee and Tarryn Bright gave the team a deserved 2-0 win in the second Test match against China, the world’s fourth-ranked side, at the Wanderers Club in Johannesburg on Wednesday night.

Coetzee slotted in her 206th goal in her 212th Test match and is now just 15 shots short of the world all-time record held by Natella Krasnikova of Russia. That strike came midway through the first half and Bright followed that up with a lovely reverse-stick shot in the 41st minute.

The Chinese had their chances but South Africa outshone the Asian Games champions in every aspect of the game, from shots on goal to dominance in midfield and solidity in defence, but that is not to say it was one-way traffic.

The win now leaves SA unbeaten after eight matches, one of the most successful periods in SA women’s hockey’s recent history. And it is particularly noteworthy that they have beaten the Chinese twice, as six months ago when head coach Giles Bonnet took over the reins, they lost 11 successive Tests to China in Beijing and conceded 66 goals while scoring just 12.

“I was happy with the progress from the first Test but we still need to work on our finishing and play in the attacking third,” Bonnets said. “I was also pleased with captain Marsha Marescia and the way she marshalled the game in the 70 minutes.”

The third Test is at Wanderers at 7pm on Thursday night.

The very presence of Coetzee in the South African forward line created havoc in the Azerbaijan defence in the earlier segment of the 18-Test Investec International Series last week in Johannesburg, the girls in green and gold winning that five-Test contest 4-0.

Coetzee’s reputation is such that a couple of defenders track her whenever she is in possession or hovering in the goal zone, which has opened up space and time for the outstanding 21-year-old Sulette Damons to score five goals in her six Tests prior to Wednesday.

Dirkie Chamberlain, too, has been in stunning form and the experience these players are gaining just from playing upfront with the 32-year-old Coetzee is priceless in terms of their development going forward to the Champions Challenge tournament in Dublin, Ireland in June.

Another feature of the SA team has been the astonishing development of their trio of goalkeepers under the tutelage of the visionary Bonnet’s specialist goalkeeping coaches, two of who are from Holland, where the SA head coach lives.

Between them, SA number one Mariette Rix, second-choice Sanani Mangisa and number three Hanli Hattingh, have scooped the lion’s share of Investec Player of the match awards over the past 11 Tests, which include the five against world champions Argentina in Bloemfontein last month, as the innovative coaching techniques instilled by Martijn Drijver, Joppe de Vries and Sheldon Rostron are being reflected in the performances of their willing students.