Brave South Africa go down to Netherlands in Challenge final | SASCOC - SASCOC

Brave South Africa go down to Netherlands in Challenge final

Urged on by hundreds of flag-waving South African supporters at the final of the Investec Challenge in Cape Town the national women’s hockey side went down 4-2 to Olympic champions and the world’s No1 team, Netherlands on Sunday.

But South Africa made their fans proud at a packed Hartleyvale Stadium with a stirring performance that produced two top-notch goals in an excellent second half, reports Jon Cook.

At half-time the Dutch were 2-0 up through goals from Roos Drost (seventh minute) and the fabulous Kitty van Male (23rd) but the scoreline did not reflect the tremendous fight the SA team put up and world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee ÔÇô on a number of occasions ÔÇô and Jade Mayne came close to getting on the scoresheet had it not been for the presence of the world’s best shot stopper, Joyce Sombroek, in The Netherlands’ goals.

After the changeover a revitalised SA scored five minutes into the second half (40th minute) from their second successive penalty corner when Lisa Deetlefs slapped in the rebound (2-1).

SA put enormous pressure on the Dutch for a sustained period, but midway through the second half the world’s best team ÔÇô devastating on the counter-attack ÔÇô came back at pace and outstanding forward Maria Verschoor beat excellent SA keeper Sanani Mangisa from close for 3-1 in the 55th minute.

But this exciting gold medal match of end-to-end action was not over yet, and four minutes later (59th minute) Celia Evans on the right flank shook off a heavy tackle and made ground under much pressure before firing a cross to Mayne who was lurking near the left post and the Western Province striker made no mistake from inside the six-yard box (3-2).

Thoughts of SA being able to draw level and force the match into golden goal extra-time were not to be, however, as Mangisa palmed a Maartje Paumen screamer over the crossbar ÔÇô not for the first time ÔÇô before Charlotte Vega scored a relatively soft goal with seven seconds left (70th minute) for the 4-2 final scoreline.

Both sides had shots pulled off the goalline ÔÇô Laura Nunnink doing it for the Dutch from a Coetzee penalty corner and SA co-captain Lenise Marais the same from a Dutch drag-flick PC.

SA co-captain Marsha Marescia and Tarryn Bright got through a mountain of work in midfield but on both sides it was magnificent team efforts that produced a marvellous spectacle of international women’s hockey at its best.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿The bronze medal play-off was won by England after a penalty shoot-out (3-2) against Australia.

The leading goalscorer and top player of the Investec Challenge was Netherlands ace Paumen with 10 goals during the week-long tournament.