South Africa's 18-year-old striker Tanya Britz, a first-year Kovsies visual arts student in Bloemfontein, takes on Louise Cavenaile of Belgium, in Dublin, Ireland, on 7 October, 2012. SA lost the 5th-place Champions Challenge playoff match 2-1 to Belgium, after the two sides were locked nil-all at half-time. Photo: Adrian Boehm

Failure to convert goalscoring opportunities was the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team’s undoing as they lost the battle for fifth place 2-1 to Belgium in the Champions Challenge in Dublin Sunday.

SA dominated the first half, and Belgium the second, but the Africans will reflect on how their winning the majority of goalscoring chances didn’t translate into victory. Erica Coppey and Alix Gerniers did the damage with Tarryn Bright replying for SA after the score was 0-0 at half-time.

“The girls have got to take their opportunities,” was rueful SA assistant coach Fabian Gregory’s summation.

Striker Izelle Lategan's face tells the story of lost opportunities against Belgium in Dublin on Sunday. Photo: Adrian BoehmWith eight from the London 2012 team not in Dublin, this was a new combination well-led by Lenise Marais that was on a steep learning curve but much has been achieved in broadening the player base with the long-term in mind. Six of the eight are still available for SA.

The opening salvo came in the eighth minute when Bright’s slap shot from the first penalty corner saw South Africa’s attackers come close to connecting the rebound off keeper Aisling D’Hooge’s pads.

SA had had two more excellent chances by the time the match was barely 15 minutes old, but it appeared that a lack of self-belief let them down at times, an area the coaching staff and Etienne van der Walt of Neurozone are working with.

Midway, keeper Sanani Mangisa smothered a Belgian attack by coming off her line and cutting the angle. Then Lilian du Plessis got in a shot before Aline Fobe’s effort was superbly saved by the SA stopper at the other end.

Jade Mayne’s close control brought SA’s second PC with 10 left but 18-year-old Tanya Britz’s deflection off Lesle-Ann George’s pass flew over the crossbar. Then Quanita Bobbs (20) fed Sulette Damons down the right and the pass went to SA U21 skipper Izelle Lategan whose shot from close was blocked.

The most clear-cut chance came with three left when Bernie Coston’s pace down the right opened the path for a powerful, pinpoint cross that Lategan failed to connect a metre from the goalline.

At seven decent opportunities to two, SA deserved a half-time lead and the match continued in the same vein soon after the re-start when Bobbs combined with Coston but another great opportunity came and went. Marais made a vital intercept at the other end before Lategan’s athletic deflection off Bright’s cross went wide.

Belgium won their first PC after 48 minutes but Marais was on the post to deflect away and then the Europeans got another after a Mangisa deflection save. A brace of Mangisa reflex saves followed before Coppey buried the rebound (1-0).

With 15 left Gerniers made certain of the two-goal margin when she smashed in a rebound (2-0). Then Britz’s shot on the turn was swatted away by D’Hooge before Shelley Russell won SA’s third PC, which Belgium blocked.

Mangisa gloved Gerniers away soon after before blocking another. D’Hooge made a crucial save from Bright with seven left before Lategan was robbed of a PC.

With a minute left Mayne’s volley was blocked, as was Bright’s, and a final PC after the final hooter was smashed in by Bright but it was too late to make a difference.

 

Investec SA Champions Challenge Results:
29 Sep: RSA 0-1 (0-0) IRL
30 Sep: USA 4-2 (1-2) RSA
2 Oct: RSA 0-0 (0-0) SCO
4 Oct (Quarter-final): RSA 1-2 (1-1) AUS
6 Oct (Playoff): RSA 3-2 (2-1) India
7 Oct (5th place Playoff): RSA 1-2 (0-0) Belgium
 
Investec SA team:
Nicolene Terblanche (KZN Coastal Raiders)
Lillian du Plessis (Northern Blues)
Lenise Marais (KZN Coastal Raiders)
Kelly Madsen (KZN Coastal Raiders)
Sanani Mangisa (Southern Gauteng)
Marsha Marescia (Capt) (Southern Gauteng)
Lisa Deetlefs (Southern Gauteng)
Bernadette Coston (Southern Gauteng)
Lesle-Ann George (Free State)
Tanya Britz (Free State)
Izelle Lategan (Free State)
Illse Davids (Western Province)
Shelley Russell (Western Province)
Tarryn Bright (Western Province)
Lauren Penny (Western Province)
Jade Mayne (Western Province)
Quanita Bobbs (Western Province)
Sulette Damons (North West)