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Victory and defeat for SA as Region 5 Games begin

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By Mark Etheridge
in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

At exactly 14.14pm on Friday, Team South Africa’s 2014 African Region 5 Games campaign got underway with the boy’s football match against Zambia.
And unfortunately it was a losing start for Team SA in these Under-20 Games as the team of largely Under-17 youngsters went down 6-1 to their older counterparts from the north in sizzling 34 degree Celsius conditions.
The South Africans are using a younger side here as part of their overall planning for the future.
But the day ended on a winning note for the South Africans as the Under-20 girls side later blasted past Botswana 3-1 to get their campaign up and running.
The boys were supposed to meet Lesotho in their opener but the fixtures were changed on the previous night. ‘It actually suits us this way because then we get out hardest fixture out of the way,’ said manager Shawn Bishop.
The boys were down 2-0 in under 10 minutes as the big and physical Zambians made an immediate impact.
South Africa’s first shot only came in the 15th minute with a long range effort and at half time the youngsters were 5-0 down. They must have felt as though they’d been hit by a tornado, and to some degree they were, as a wind-devil plucked up a big section of advertising hoarding and deposited it a full 20-metres onto the pitch, causing a hold-up for repair work.
The second half saw the SA boys fighting back even though they went 6-0 down within five minutes. To their credit they hung in there on a leg-exhausting pitch that looked way better suited to rugby than soccer.
Twenty-five minutes into the second half and something finally went South Africa’s way as defender Leago Lesego Mekgoe was brought down in the box as he drove towards goal. That saw the Zambian defender sent off and up stepped Felix Noge to calmly send the keeper the wrong way.
That was how it ended and South Africa can take heart from their second half effort. Said coach Molefi Ntseki: ‘The guys were a bit shell-shocked in the beginning as they saw how big their opponents were.
‘At least eight of this team haven’t played together under these circumstances and four of the first-half goals came from us not holding onto possession.
‘The pitch was very heavy and tough to play on but then again, both teams have to play on it. I was very happy with the way the guys fought back in the second half and I think there’s definitely some good potential in the side.
On to the girls, and coach Sheryl Botes can be buoyant at the way her girls beat Botswana.
They kept their heads against a physically challenging side and dominated the first half, both in terms of possession, shots at goal and creativity.
The opening goal came in the dying stages as striker Mosili Makhoali blasted home from close range.
In the second half there were yellow cards for Amanda November and Thato Letsoso in quick succession as the Botswana side tried to get back into things.
The latter was later stretchered off injured.
The Botswana side finally got their equaliser in the 29th minute after a goalmouth scramble saw the ball poked home past keeper Kebotseng Moletsane.
But barely had the Botswana side had time to celebrate than Makhoali struck her second to put SA 2-1 up.
And that wasn’t the end of it as barely a minute later it was November who shot home to put the result beyond doubt as the sun sank over the horizon.
‘Our plan was to get as many goals as possible this match because it’s a round-robin three-match tournament,’ said coach Botes. ‘But we missed at least three or four excellent chances early on.
‘The heat and heavy pitch saw the girls taking strain but in the end, what a great, great win this was for women’s football, SAFA, SASCOC and South Africa.
‘Now we must patch up a few knocks that the girls took and build towards Zimbabwe on Sunday.
‘We hear that President Robert Mugabe will be at the match so the girls have everything to play for against the host nation on the same day as the opening ceremony.’
Players being assessed for injury are Letsoso, November, Gaby Salgado and Linda Sepotokele, the last-named having had a great game, constantly causing problems down the right and linking up well with her team-mates.
Other sports expected to get underway on Saturday are tennis and boxing.


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