World record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee celebrates her first goal during the first semi-final of the Investec London Cup in Chiswick Saturday. After a reserved start, the South Africans once again beat expectations to level scores 2-all with the reigning Olympic champions, before the Europeans won the test 4-2 at the penalty shootout. SA face the winner between Australia and Germany in the second semi for the bronze medal on Sunday. Photo: Ady Kerry / Great Britain Hockey

The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team came agonisingly close to upsetting Olympic Games champions Holland for the first time in history but went down 4-2 in a penalty shootout after the scores were 2-2 at full-time in the semi-finals of the Investec London Cup in Chiswick, west London Saturday afternoon.

“We didn’t pitch up in the first half and were very slow out the blocks,” said SA assistant coach Fabian Gregory.

“Once we were 2-0 down we started playing and the girls gave a great account of themselves, putting the Dutch under immense pressure high in the field, while our defence was exceptional in the second half, but we owe it to ourselves to put together a 70-minute performance of the quality of that second half when we play in the bronze medal match.”

Gregory sounded a warning to SA’s Olympic Games opponents. “We are not going to London 2012 to make up the numbers and we showed against the Olympic champions there is no reason why we can’t beat the best in the world. But it was like we said, ‘let’s give the Dutch two goals and then we will show what we can do’.”

Netherland's Claire Verhage (right) challenges South Africa's Marsha Marescia in the first semi-final of the Investec London Cup. Photo: Ady Kerry / Great Britain HockeySA captain Marsha Marescia said the penalty shootout is a pressure situation that the team do train for. “It just didn’t work out for us today,” the outstanding midfielder said.

The nearest SA have come to beating the world hockey giants was a 5-5 draw in 2004. The bronze medal match between SA and either Germany or Australia will be live on SuperSport 6 at 2.15 pm SA time with the gold medal match at 5 pm SA time on the same channel.

Two brilliant strikes by world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee, which took her tally to 240 goals in 244 Test matches, brought SA so close after a slow start, and a pivotal moment was a stunning stick save low to her right by Holland goalkeeper Floortje Engels following a Coetzee rocket drag-flick in the 47th minute.

That save won the match for Holland, who scored twice in the first 12 minutes through Kelly Jonker and Maartje Paumen.

SA had started very slowly but with SA captain Marsha Marescia having a superb game, the girls in green and gold rallied and Coetzee weaved her way across the top of the Dutch defensive third before hitting a reverse-stick shot into the far corner three minutes from half-time.

Coetzee made it 2-2 with 15 minutes left in the match after Tarryn Bright had earned a PC and the superstar’s drag-flick went whizzing past Engels in goal.

The teams matched each other in the first two rounds of the penalty shootout, which entails an attacker having eight seconds to score in a one-on-one against the goalkeeper, but Holland edged ahead to win the best-of-five shootout 4-2 with one round left.

The second semi-final between world number two Germany and world seven Australia is due to start at 6 pm SA time.


Final Logs at the Investec London Cup (All played 2):
Pool A:
1. Holland +6 GD, 6 pts
2. Australia +2 GD, 3 pts
3. Ireland -8 GD, 0 pts
Pool B:
1. Germany +2 GD, 6 pts
2. South Africa +1 GD, 3 pts
3. Great Britain -3 GD, 0 pts