Undoubtedly the worst game in sports tournaments is the third-place playoff. Less than 24 hours after tasting defeat in the semi-finals, Italy and Supergroup South Africa had to take to the field to decide the destination of the bronze medal at the FIH Hockey Series Final in Valencia.
And with the South Africans having played the later and more mentally exhausting semi-final, there was always going to be a tough encounter.
With vengeance in their mind having lost the group stage meeting, Italy emerged from the anthems with the greater fire in their bellies, but the South Africans were resolute and impenetrable at the back.
The South Africans then had most of the possession and created the most dangerous opportunities in the second quarter, but were unable to breach the Italian defence.
The Toll of Physical and Mental Exertion
Throughout the tournament the African champions consistently played their best hockey in the third quarter, but the exertion of physical and mental energy less than 24 hours ago started taking its toll.
A series of misplaced passes were capitalized on the by the Italians and after winning a penalty corner, Italian striker Guiliana Ruggieri saw her slap deflected off Erin Hunter and through Phumi Mbande.
For the South Africans it was the kind of gut punch that leaves you winded, and needing a good couple of minutes to get out the other side. While busy grappling with the metaphorically breath shortage, the Italians landed two more punches through Lara Oviedo and Eugenia Bianchi.
Having received fantastic support from home, including from South Africa’s minister of sport Nathi Mthethwa, the team were determined to give their fans, something to celebrate and that moment came when Tarryn Glasby scrambled the ball home to earn a consolation for the reigning African Champions.
While there may be disappointment in the ultimate fourth place finish, the South Africans will be proud of the progress they have made and the positive signs for the future.
Next on the agenda is the African Cup in Stellenbosch.
Results of the Third/Fourth Place Play-Offs at the FIH Hockey Series Finals in Valencia, Spain, on Thursday, 27 June, 2019:
South Africa 1 (Glasby 52’)
Italy 3 (Ruggieri 34’, Oviedo 38’ & Bianchi 38’)
South African Results at the Poliesportiu Municipal Verge del Carme-Beteró in Valencia, Spain:
Wed 19 June: SA (du Plessis 33’, Bobbs 41’) 2-2 Wales (French 19’, Wilkinson 49’)
Thu 20 June: SA (Wood 30’ & Chamberlain 42’) 2-1 Italy (Bianchi 52’)
Sat 22 June: SA South Africa (Du Plessis 3’ & 37’, Veto 23’, Chamberlain 29’ & 33’ & Deetlefs 60’) 7-0 Thailand
Wed 26 June: SA 0-1 Spain (Garcia 53’)
Supergroup South Africa at the FIH Series Finals, from 19 – 27 June, 2019:
Erin Hunter (C) 16
Celia Evans (3)
Izelle Verster (6)
Marizen Marais (7)
Kristen Paton (8)
Robyn Johnson (9)
Kara-Lee Botes (11)
Dirkie Chamberlain (12)
Lisa-Marie Deetlefts (13)
Nomnikelo Veto (14)
Hannah Pearce (18)
Lilian du Plessis (19)
Stephanie Baxter (22)
Phumelela Mbande (GK) (24)
Quanita Bobbs (28)
Tarryn Glasby (29)
Bianca Wood (31)
Mmatshepo Modipane (GK) (32)
Photo 1 Caption: Tarryn Glasby showed some South African resolve when she scrambled the ball home to earn a consolation goal for the reigning African Champions, in their 3rd/4th place play-off against Italy in the FIH Hockey Series Final tournament in Spain. Photo: FHCV
Photo 2 Caption: SA Assistant Coach Inky Zondi is pictured counselling his team in their final fixture in Valencia. Though playing well in the first half without success, the Italians struck with three quick goals in the third quarter to take the match away. Photo: FHCV
Photo 3 Caption: Supergroup South African player Nomnikelo Veto pictured in action against Italy. Photo: FHCV
With editing by gsport