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The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team were shaded 2-1 by Belgium after trailing 1-0 at half-time in the first Test of the four-Test series at Central Hockey Club in Cape Town on Monday.
Both sides had their opportunities but the Belgians were more penetrative in the attacking third and Emilie Sinia’s left-to-right diagonal cross was tipped in at the far post by Jill Boon two minutes from the interval.
The Europeans stretched their lead shortly after half-time when Erica Coppey netted a fine goal but SA pressed hard to gain parity and it was late substitute Quanita Bobbs who instigated the play.
The right-side midfielder, who learnt her hockey at Central HC, released Sulette Damons down the right flank and the pacy striker’s power cross found fellow forward Lillian du Plessis, who made no mistake.
Earlier, South Africa had earned the lone penalty corner of the match and the slip-pass left to Nicolene Terblanche saw the right half’s shot partially blocked, the ball sailing harmlessly over the crossbar.
However, Belgium were value for the win and one action moment in the first half that drew gasps from the appreciative crowd at this club that is the pride of the development of hockey in the Western Province saw SA goalkeeper Sanani Mangisa make a superb reflex save to her right from Moureen Beernaert.
The opening clash between these two London 2012 Olympic Games teams was not always one for the purist – understandable early-year rustiness was the culprit – but the frequent turnovers did make for unpredictable, exciting action at times, and the fluidity will come as the series progresses.
Both defences held firm for long periods and SA captain Lenise Marais was prominent, while Belgium captain Charlotte de Vos came away from her 150th Test match cap with victory.
The South Africans may be 1-0 down in the series but the road is long in this four weeks of Test match hockey in Cape Town that also includes the World League round two competition and the Investec Challenge, so there is plenty of opportunity left for the women in green and gold to get on to the winners’ podium. Belgium will be playing in the World League but not in the Investec Challenge
The second SA/Belgium Test is at 5.30 pm on Wednesday at Central Hockey Club in Vygieskraal, while the third Test is on Friday at 6pm and the fourth and final Test at 3 pm on Saturday, the latter two both at Hartleyvale Hockey Stadium.