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SA look beyond draw

The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team go into Tuesday’s Champions Challenge match against a hurting USA in Dublin knowing that a draw will ensure a top-two finish in Pool A.

Yet that is not how they approach games, particularly after firing five past world number nine Japan in the rout on Sunday.

That 5-1 win over a team that rarely, if ever, loses by that margin to anyone, has buoyed the side considerably after an up-and-down 2-2 draw with Scotland on day one.

SA started badly against the impressive Scots, whose 3-1 win Sunday over the world’s number 13-ranked nation, the USA, underlined that they are far better than their world 21 ranking suggests.

Yet the SA side came back from a two-goal deficit at half-time to overwhelm the Scots in the second half and only outstanding Great Britain goalkeeper Abi Walker knows how she didn’t concede more.

The lesson was learnt and SA were 2-0 up inside 10 minutes against a shell-shocked Japan who never recovered and let in three more in the last 15 minutes.

Superstar striker Pietie Coetzee is now just three goals short of breaking the world record 220 set by Russia’s Natella Krasnikova two decades ago and is in ominous form.

Coetzee has scored two from two in Dublin but it is what she adds to the strikers alongside her that makes this SA side so potent. The Graaff-Reinet born Sulette Damons is just one of them.

A natural athlete who was the South African Schools’ 100-metre and 200m champion as well as a teenage hockey prodigy, the Union High School product scored a wonder goal in her SA debut against world champions Argentina nine months ago.

Still just 20, Damons has massive raw talent that saw her make the SA Under-16 side aged just 13, but she is still learning her trade and what better teacher than Coetzee.

The USA will be very aware of Damons and company, as they know Coetzee is no longer South Africa’s lone ranger.


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