South Africa promised much after a convincing display against the Olympic champion, Germany, last week, but flattered to deceive on Monday and allowed Britain to dominate second-half possession and win the match in the Spar Hockey Festival by 2-1 on the Astro Turf Complex of the Stellenbosch University.
South Africa was in control for most of the first half, and it came as no surprise when Henna du Buisson scored in the 29th minute.
Sloppy work from a promising attack and another crucial mistake from a short corner allowed the Britons to storm back in the 35th minute when Christa Cullen equalized right on half time.
After the resumption, South Africa rarely strung together more than a handful of accurate passes. The passing and control were woeful, and the hosts allowed the British team to dominate possession and to attack.
Sarah Thomas and Cullen ran the South African defenders ragged.
To make matters worse, Lenise Marais and Tarryn Bright received their marching orders from the umpire, Lynette Nunn, in the last 20 minutes for unlawful tackling. Both received yellow cards.
Cullen scored the match-winning goal for the British team in the 66th minute.
Jenny King, the South African coach, said South Africa’s inability to keep their composure and possession, and too many bad passes, contributed to the disappointing loss.
“We gave away the ball too much,” she said. “As well as Cindy Brown played against Germany, she was giving too much possession away today,” said King.
She also criticized the decision by Nunn to award yellow cards to Marais and Bright, and said their mistakes did not warrant the harsh treatment.
Shelley Russell was South Africa’s best player, and showed a few touches of class with her speed and attacking skills. She made the British defenders look pedestrian at times.
The loss against the lowly British team was a step backwards for South Africa.
The host team looked full of enterprise in the draw to Germany on Wednesday, but was just a shadow of that energetic and self-confident team on Monday.
Danny Kerry, the British coach, said his team, ranked 11th in the world, dominated play in the second half, but need to work on their execution near goal.
He was full of praise for the sterling attacking play of Russell. “She was electric, and is definitely one of the most exciting players I have seen in a long time.
“South Africa’s greatest strength, though, is their strength and you have to be particularly strong to keep the ball in the contact situations,” said Kerry.