World number 12 Investec South Africa beat world 14 Ireland 2-0 after leading 1-0 at half-time in the first match of the Four Nations tournament also involving world champions Argentina and world 13 India in Buenos Aires Wednesday evening (SA time).
Southern Gauteng and SA captain Marsha Marescia’s 29th minute goal came from SA’s second penalty corner (PC) while North West’s Celia Evans made it 2-0 in an untidy second half.
SA will need a better quality of hockey in Thursday’s 10.30 pm (SA time) match against world champions Argentina.
SA were on top from the outset and Western Province forward Kathleen Taylor, in her 150th Test match, fired in an early cross from the right before provincial team-mate and SA Player of the Year Tarryn Bright opened space for Eastern Province captain Liesel Dorothy’s effort, which was saved by Irish keeper Emma Gray.
From a rare Irish circle entry player of the match Marescia snuffed out the move in a well-timed tackle on Aine Connery before keeper Sanani Mangisa made a comfortable save from Shirley McCay shortly after.
After a bad start Ireland were gaining a measure of possession but SA were not done and North West striker Sulette Damons brought a save before Ilse Davids of WP fired a flat cross from the left and Northern Blues striker Dirkie Chamberlain pressured the defence into conceding the first PC. Bright’s effort was saved and the energetic nature of the match continued.
Marescia made two more key tackles, the second from Ireland’s first PC, and Free State’s Lesle-Ann George cut out two dangerous moves before Jade Mayne of WP made an important tackle, too much SA ball being turned over.
Six minutes from the changeover Marescia and Chamberlain freed Shelley Russell and the WP attacking midfielder won SA’s second PC. Bright’s slip-pass left saw Marescia’s slap shot hammer into the backboard (1-0).
Nearing the break, Bright’s pass saw Damons’s shot saved from close.
After the break the match became turnover friendly, Argentina umpire Veronica Villafane and India’s Dogar Nirmala frequently blowing their whistles, infringements everywhere.
Mayne fired into the sideboard from the right, player of the match Marescia got her side out of trouble frequently as South African coach Gene Muller’s Irish side pressed forward, and Bright set up Celia Evans who made sure after Gray’s initial save (2-0).
With 50 seconds left George put in a superb left-right diagonal reverse-stick cross but no one was able to latch on at the far post.
In the late game Argentina were due to play beat India. The Argentines are without eight-time World Player of the Year Luciana Aymar who, like SA world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee, is being rested.
Investec SA Women’s Hockey Team*:Mariette Rix (Western Province) Ilse Davids (Western Province) Tarryn Bright (Western Province) Shelley Russell (Western Province) Jade Mayne (Western Province) Kathleen Taylor (Western Province) Marsha Marescia (Capt) (Southern Gauteng) Lisa Deetlefs (Southern Gauteng) Bernie Coston (Southern Gauteng) Anelle van Deventer (Southern Gauteng) Sanani Mangisa (Northern Blues) Nicolene Terblanche (Northern Blues) Dirkie Chamberlain (Northern Blues) Sulette Damons (North West) Celia Evans (North West) Liesel Dorothy (Eastern Province)
* Kate Woods (WP) arrives for final preliminary round match against India