The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team showed guts and tenacity to craft a 1-0 half-time lead over recent Champions Trophy winners Holland in the second Test in the leafy town of Ede outside Amsterdam Thursday afternoon.
After their 5-0 win in Wednesday’s first Test, Dutch coach Max Caldas made a stunning move by starting without a goalkeeper, rather using superstar former South African forward Marilyn Agliotti as a field player in a bid to exploit the extra player advantage.
It worked early on as Holland threatened to suffocate South Africa with overwhelming pressure, but goalkeeper Mariette Rix kept the girls in green and gold in the game with several telling saves before her team-mates broke out in the eighth minute with Shelley Russell the instigator before the ball passed from Kathleen Taylor to Jade Mayne and on to Sulette Damons for the SA striker to deliver the killer blow.
Caldas brought on goalkeeper Joyce Sombroek with immediate effect.
SA defended their 1-0 lead with authority and calmness under pressure in the face of a wave of fast-moving, flowing attacks by Holland, arguably the best side in the world right now after beating 2010 World Cup winners Argentina in the Champions Trophy final a few weeks ago.
SA stole away on several sniping attacks, but a long road lay ahead in the second half before a remarkable upset victory over the world’s top women’s team could be claimed.
The gutsy yet tired South Africans who were playing their fifth Test match in six days couldn’t help it that the Dutch were also playing very good hockey, which caused the SA defensive format to be stretched beyond the limit in the second half, and Kim Lammers, Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel, Claire Verhage, Ellen Hoog and Kitty van Male were the final receivers in some top-class attacking plays to seal a victory.
SA could reflect on the number of soft goals that they should have prevented – a problem that has been plaguing them for some time.
The SA team leave for Dublin, Ireland at 5 am Friday morning and face Scotland at 7pm Friday (SA time) on the neutral territory of Ireland’s National Hockey Stadium, before the second Test against the Scots at 3 pm Saturday and the final Test on Sunday against the same country at 10 am SA time, making it a scarcely-believable eight Test matches in nine days before they head home on a 36-hour journey via Amsterdam and Dubai next Monday.