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SA jolt Japan 5-1

The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team bounced back from their 2-2 draw against Scotland on Saturday to beat world number nine and Champions Challenge tournament favourites Japan 5-1 in an action-packed encounter in Dublin on Sunday.

It was the most stunning of victories with three superbly worked goals in the last 15 minutes turning a 2-1 half-time lead into a 5-1 rout. Superstar Pietie Coetzee netted her 218th goal in 223 Test matches and is now just three short of breaking the world all-time record of 220 set by Natella Krasnikova of Russia 20 years ago. Shelley Russell, Tarryn Bright, Kim Hubach and Dirkie Chamberlain were the other South Africans who got on the scoresheet, reports Jonathan Cook.

Ranked 12th in the world, SA brought back captain and 2010 World All Stars midfielder Marsha Marescia as well as the skilful Marcelle Keet, and rested number two keeper Sanani Mangisa and forward Jen Wilson from the draw with Scotland.

In the opening minutes Lesle-Ann George fed Russell with a pass from the left channel and the midfielder made no mistake past Japanese goalkeeper Sakiyo Asano from inside the six-metre area (1-0). Japan hit back immediately and Shiho Otsuka was distraught when her effort hit the post and stayed out.

In the eighth minute a superb run and reverse-stick shot by SA forward Kathleen Taylor led to the first penalty corner and corner injector Bright followed up the rebound from Coetzee’s low flick to net past the hapless Asano (2-0).

It was a remarkable improvement from the Scotland match on Saturday when SA started slowly and had to play catch-up to draw 2-2, although another five minutes might have resulted in a win for the strong-finishing South Africans. But the Japanese are ruthless on the counter-attack. They came in waves and keeper Mariette Rix twice saved at point-blank range with the dangerous Otsuka frequently involved. With 13 minutes left Mie Nakashima found the back of the net in a crowded goalmouth to vociferous protests from the South Africans and after consultation, umpires Mariana Redo of Argentina and Austria’s Melissa Trivic reversed the decision.

With six minutes to half-time the heavily marked Coetzee couldn’t get any purchase on a flick with just the keeper to beat after a precision pass from fellow striker Sulette Damons and Japan raced away to earn their first PC, which was a textbook variation deflected in by Nakashima running in fast from the right (2-1). The busy Otsuka had a good chance a little later but her snap-shot went wide of the far post.

After the changeover, play flowed from strike zone to strike zone in classic fashion with both goalkeepers drawn into making crucial interventions. With 15 minutes left the super-fit South Africans stepped up into overdrive and the on-song Coetzee blazed a screamer over the crossbar before netting the quality of goal that now leaves her just three short of making history.  Picking up a superb Nicolene Terblanche pass launched from the halfway line, Coetzee had her back to goal and a defender all over her. Undeterred, she pulled the ball right and unleashed a venomous reverse-stick blast that left the keeper transfixed (3-1).

Rix still had to pull off several stunning saves as Japan fought for parity, but the rampant South Africans were not to be denied as Hubach (penalty corner) and striker Chamberlain added two more for the most memorable of victories (5-1).

Monday is a rest day before the Investec South Africa team tackle the USA in their last Pool A match on Tuesday. The tournament then goes into the quarter-final phase.


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