So Close Yet So Far in Antwerp

South Africa's Jade Mayne advances the game as Belgium's Stephanie de Groof moves into the best defensive position. SA lost the third test 1-3 against Belgium on Monday morning after winning the first on Saturday and drawing the second on Sunday, for a 1-all tied series. Photo: Joep Leenen

No less than 11 excellent scoring opportunities to three in a dominant second half did not materialise into goals for the disappointed Investec South Africa women’s hockey team as they went down 3-1 to a Belgium team that put their body and soul into defending a 2-1 half-time lead, and turned it into a 3-1 series-equalling victory in the third and final Test in Antwerp on Monday.

SA outplayed Belgium in Saturday’s first Test with a 4-1 win while Sunday’s second Test was drawn 2-2, with Monday’s result leaving the series outcome at 1-1.

The Royal Beerschot Hockey Centre bore witness to a thrilling encounter in which a determined SA did everything right but score in that fateful second half, although it must be said that the Belgian umpires left a lot to be desired in the face of an excessively physical home side.

Nevertheless, five South African penalty corners were not converted and a hatful of SA chances from field play went astray, while Belgium scored two penalty corners from two attempts plus a field goal, although it must be said that both goalkeepers, SA’s Mariette Rix and Nadine Khouzam of Belgium, made some stunning saves.

Midway through the first half SA gave away a turnover and Belgium captain and striker Charlotte Vos deflected in a cross from the left wing.

SA were stringing together a series of well-constructed attacks and a superb equaliser ensued when right half Nicolene Terblanche fed Jade Mayne, whose layoff was buried by on-song striker Dirkie Chamberlain into the backboard past Khouzam.

Another turnover gave Belgium a soft penalty corner and Anouk Raes made no mistake for the 2-1 half-time lead.

After a hatful of SA chances went a-begging in the second half, Belgium scored completely against the run of play four minutes from time through Raes.

SA had a much better second half and minimised the turnovers conceded, while building a wave of dangerous attacks, but this was one Test match that got away.

It’s back on the road for the South African squad and their support staff Monday afternoon as they travel to Ede in Holland for a two-Test series against the world’s number one-ranked Netherlands; with the first whistle at 4 pm (SA time) on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

Captain Marsha Marescia’s side then complete their punishing eight Test matches on the nine-day tour when they fly from Amsterdam to Dublin, Ireland, where they will tackle Scotland on neutral territory with the three-Test series taking place on Friday (7 pm SA time), Saturday (3 pm SA time) and Sunday (10 am SA time).


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