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SA lose final Test

South Africa went down 3-1 to Scotland in the series-deciding third women’s hockey Test in Dublin, Ireland on Sunday to give the Scots a 2-0 series victory.

Scotland led 3-1 at half-time via penalty strokes from Vikki Bunce and Catriona Ralph, and captain Linda Clement’s rebound from the Scot’s fourth penalty corner 20 minutes into the match. Six minutes earlier, Investec South Africa’s striker Dirkie Chamberlain had pulled a goal back for SA from field play.

South Africa’s eighth and last Test on this frenetic nine-day trip to Belgium, Holland and Ireland was a tour they did without 700 Test caps-worth of experience including defender Lisa Deetlefs, midfielder and 2010 SA Player of the Year Lesle-Ann George, plus forward and double Olympian Jen Wilson as well as world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee, the quartet all unavailable due to injury or study commitments.

South Africa lost the first test 4-3 on Friday and the two teams shared the spoils at 2-2 on Saturday.

The much fresher Scots were immediately on the back foot as SA started brilliantly on Sunday. Captain Marsha Marescia’s pass to fellow centre midfielder Tarryn Bright won the first penalty corner and striker Sulette Damons’ deflection goalward won a second corner; this time Great Britain keeper Abi Walker saving from Bright.

The outstanding Jade Mayne’s impressive stickwork was a big plus for SA in tight situations but Great Britain midfielder Laura Bartlett made inroads with nifty stickwork of her own to win a hotly-disputed penalty stroke awarded by the Scottish umpire, which was duly converted by Bunce, yet another GB player.

At 1-0 to Scotland after seven minutes, SA strove for the equaliser but finishing off was the issue and Scotland stole away to win two corners, Nikki Kidd’s deflection leading to another penalty stroke, which Ralph buried into the backboard for 2-0 after 11 minutes.

SA hit back immediately but Damons’s reverse-stick strike went wide of the far post in this high-tempo clash and the striker set up Mayne soon after, whose reverse-stick cross was helped in by Chamberlain for 2-1. Scotland restored their two-goal advantage on the 20-minute mark thanks to Clement.

Celia Evans, Kathleen Taylor and SA captain Marsha Marescia had goalscoring opportunities before the changeover, while Illse Davids, Cindy Botha, the outstanding Bright and Mayne got in shots in the second half. Of course, Scotland also had their opportunities, although significantly less from field play, and won the penalty corner count 9-4.

With eight Test matches in nine days ÔÇô and without several matchwinners ÔÇô the under-strength young SA team’s capacity to play under extreme physical and mental fatigue was deliberately tested, and they coped well.

Aside from putting in huge effort on this incredibly punishing tour, SA can reflect once again on the plentiful goalscoring opportunities they created but didn’t convert and the number of soft goals they conceded ÔÇô problems that have plagued them this year.

This tour, played under great duress, was another positive step for SA head coach Giles Bonnet and the extended squad as the players learnt a lot about themselves and their capacity both mentally and physically.


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