South Africa's superstar striker Pietie shrugs off Spain's Gloria Comerma during the 1-1 draw at Randburg, in the Investec International Series during January. Coetzee is set for a return to action after being laid low by a viral infection in New Delhi. Photo: Reg Caldecott

Superstar striker Pietie Coetzee, a talismanic figure in the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team, is set to make a return to the starting line-up for Friday’s 10.30 am (SA time) match against Canada at the Olympic Qualifier Tournament (OQT) in New Delhi, which will be televised live on SuperSport 6 and SS Africa.

Dr Shuaib Manjra, the tournament’s chief medical officer, has been monitoring Coetzee and the SA team as part of his job is satisfied the world record goalscorer is ready.

“I am comfortable that Pietie has fully recovered from the viral infection,” said the Cape Town sports scientist. “A number of players have had mild infections from which they have made quick recoveries, so South Africa will have a full team in very good match condition.”

Coetzee herself is in no doubt. “The bed rest has been good and I am ready to go again,” she said.

South Africa’s 5-2 victory over co-favourites India in the fourth round of league action on Wednesday propelled them into Saturday’s 4.30 pm (SA time) final, where they will tackle either Italy or home team India, who meet in the deciding match at 2.30 pm (SA time) Friday afternoon, India needing to win while the Italians need only draw.

“South Africa beat India in all departments, from fitness to physicality, speed, skills and technique,” said Manjra. “The number of matches they played in the build-up to the OQT means they are game fit.”

Canada have had a disappointing OQT but finally broke their duck with a 1-0 win over point-less Poland on Wednesday and will be looking to end the closing stages of the tournament on a high.

SA captain Marsha Marescia has other ideas. “One of our goals has always been to remain unbeaten in the tournament and if we can do it, why not. We would also like to win more penalty corners to get some momentum going in that department ahead of the final.”

Dirkie Chamberlain, South Africa’s hat-trick hero against India, wants to get back on the goal trail Friday and is unperturbed whether SA meet India or Italy in the final.

“I suppose the Italian defence was a bit tougher in that they got more players behind the ball, which meant less space for us

[in the strike zone] while the Indians tended to follow the ball more and were not as disciplined in one-on-one marking,” said the striker. “It doesn’t really matter, though, you’ve still got to score the goals.”


Investec SA Olympic Qualifier Tournament Fixtures:

Sat 18 Feb SA 2-1 Poland
Sun 19 Feb SA 2-0 Ukraine
Tue 21 Feb SA 1-1 Italy
Wed 22 Feb SA 5-2 India
Fri Feb 24 SA vs Canada
Final: Sat Feb 25


Investec South Africa Team:

Mariette Rix (Western Province)
Kate Woods (Western Province)
Shelley Russell (Western Province)
Jade Mayne (Western Province)
Lauren Penny (Western Province)
Kathleen Taylor (Western Province)
Tarryn Bright (Western Province)
Marsha Marescia (capt) (Southern Gauteng)
Lisa Deetlefs (Southern Gauteng)
Bernadette Coston (Southern Gauteng)
Pietie Coetzee (Southern Gauteng)
Sanani Mangisa (Northern Blues)
Dirkie Chamberlain (Northern Blues)
Nicolene Terblanche (Northern Blues)
Kim Hubach (Northern Blues)
Lesle-Ann George (Free State)
Lenise Marais (KZN Coastal Raiders)
Sulette Damons (North West)