An outstanding Investec South Africa women’s hockey team, superbly led by Marsha Marescia, beat world number four Great Britain 3-1 after leading 2-0 at half-time on the first day of the Investec London Cup in Chiswick on Tuesday.
World number 12 South Africa’s Sulette Damons and Bernie Coston scored brilliant first-half goals with a third forward, Jen Wilson, getting on the scoresheet 12 minutes from time. Susannah Gilbert replied for GB six minutes from the end, but it was too little too late.
“It was a fantastic win in difficult conditions,” said a soaked SA assistant coach Fabian Gregory afterwards. “Our defence was outstanding, as they put us under pressure at times, and while we would have liked more opportunities, we took our chances.”
“It came down to who wanted it more,” said Marescia. “There was a calmness on the field when GB came back at us, and we knew we could keep our lead.”
In the fifteenth minute, Marescia fed Shelley Russell, who returned the pass at the right moment. Marescia then freed up striker Damons who cracked a sizzling shot from the top of the strike zone past world-rated GB goalkeeper Beth Storry (1-0). It was a beautiful piece of hockey.
At the other end, South Africa’s outstanding defensive work kicked into gear when a composed Kate Woods got SA out of a tight spot and then Russell shepherded an attacker out of harm’s way. Lisa Deetlefs, Lenise Marais, goalkeeper Mariette Rix were just three of the South Africans among many who made critical tackles in defence during this enthralling match.
In the 20th minute Marescia embarked on a scything left-right diagonal run and lay-off to Coston cutting in from the right, and the forward smoked a stunning strike into the roof of the net.
SA’s counter-attacking was superb and caught the GB team, who are rated as serious gold medal contenders at the London 2012 Olympics, on a number of occasions.
Great Britain were missing captain Kate Walsh and fellow central defender Crista Cullen, as well as Sarah Thomas and stellar striker Alex Danson, but this win will do South Africa a power of good ahead of London 2012, which is just seven weeks away.
SA meet world number three Germany at 9 pm SA time Wednesday in a match that will be televised “live” on SuperSport 6. With just this Germany match left in the pool in this six nation event, SA are in the pound seats to get into Saturday’s semi-finals.