Argentina blew South Africa away in the first half to get their Olympic campaign off to a breathtaking start at a soaked Riverbank Arena in front of a crowd of over 12,500. They ran up a 5-1 lead by the interval as the inter-changing lines of the likes of Daniela Sruoga, Delfina Merino and Carla Rebecchi was too hot to handle.
Luciana Aymar was pulling the strings and it saw them run up a string of penalty corners. For the most part, Sulette Damons was doing a brilliant job to shut down Noel Barriosnuevo’s first phase efforts. But the rebounds fell kindly as, first, Aymar provided a neat dink before smashing home the third corner in the eighth minute, her 129thinternational effort.
Josefina Sruoga finished off the next after the ball got caught in Mariette Rix’s pads and she pounced to snap up from close range. South Africa did get one back a minute later, again an Argentinean corner proving the route. This time, however, Rix saved well and her side produced a full-length counter.
Shelly Russell worked the ball to Jennifer Wilson who picked a delightful cross for Dirkie Chamberlain to slide onto and score the pick of today’s goal to date. But Argentina were insatiable up front and there proved to be scant respite from the intense pressure. Martina Cavallero restored the two-goal advantage as Daniela Sruoga jinked through the circle.
From corner number six, Aymar notched her second, again a rebound while Carla Rebecchi picked off a peach of a reverse – Aymar the provider for 5-1 at the break. The second half proved a more sedate affair with Argentina sitting deeper, conserving energy while South Africa endeavoured to push on but could not break through.
Noel Barrionuevo’s neatly worked corner-switch extended the margin to 6-1 with nine minutes to go while Silvina D’Elia’s unpressurised hit from her side’s ninth corner completed the rout late on.
In their second London 2012, South Africa were up against world no. 6 New Zealand, the islands nation cruising to its second win of this Olympics with a 4-1 victory against South Africa.
New Zealand did not waste time to stake their claim on the game, forcing a penalty-corner on their first attack. It was perfectly executed, birthday girl Charlotte Harrison deflecting from close range the initial shot by Kayla Sharland. They then had four unsuccessful penalty-corner attempts before Clarissa Eshuis finally scored on the next one with a direct shot to widen the gap to two goals.
The Black Sticks had a good handle on the game and the South Africans were struggling to get out of their own half. On one of their lone incursions in New Zealand territory, Pietie Coetzee showed why she is a lethal goal hunter, nearly scoring from an innocuous chance created by a pass from Marsha Marescia. The next goal was however again for New Zealand, after a long video-referral to decide if Kayla Sharland’s shot was indeed within the shooting circle.
The second period started with a chance for Coetzee well handled by Bianca Russell in goal for New Zealand. South Africa pushed valiantly to create opportunities and were rewarded by a penalty-stroke when Jennifer Wilson was fouled in the circle. Coetzee scored to celebrate her 250th appearance in a South African jersey in style.
The Black Sticks weathered the storm and Sharland promptly re-established the three-goal lead with a powerful reverse shot blasted from a narrow angle. They earned some mixed reaction from the crowd when they started to waste time in the final minutes despite their comfortable lead, but were happy to end the day with maximum points in Pool B standings.
Before the match, Coetzee was honoured for her 250th international Cap.
Olympic Games Women’s Hockey Group B (SA Fixtures and Results): SA 1-7 Argentina SA 1-4 New Zealand 2 Aug, 17h00: SA vs Germany 4 Aug, 09h30: SA vs Australia 6 Aug, 11h45: SA vs United States South Africa Squad: 1. Mariette Rix 3. Kate Woods 7. Illse Davids 8. Marsha Marescia 10. Shelley Russell 12. Dirkie Chamberlain 13. Lisa-Marie Deetlefs 15. Pietie Coetzee 16. Jennifer Wilson 17. Lesle-Ann George 20. Nicolene Terblanche 21. Lenise Marais 22. Kathleen Taylor 23. Bernadette Coston 29. Tarryn Bright 30. Sulette Damons Argentina Squad: 1. Laura del Colle 4. Rosario Luchetti 5. Macarena Rodriguez Perez 7. Martina Cavallero 8. Luciana Aymar 11. Carla Rebecchi 12. Delfina Merino 16. Florencia Habif 17. Rocio Sanchez Moccia 18. Daniela Sruoga 19. Sofia Maccari 21. Mariela Scarone 25. Silvina d’Elia 27. Noel Barrionuevo 30. Josefina Sruoga 31. Florencia Mutio New Zealand Squad: 1. Kayla Sharland 2. Emily Naylor 3. Krystal Forgesson 5. Katie Glynn 8. Sally Rutherford 9. Alana Millington 12. Ella Gunson 13. Samantha Charlton 15. Julia King 16. Clarissa Eshuis 20. Samantha Harrison 21. Cathryn Finlayson 22. Gemma Flynn 28. Charlotte Harrison 29. Melody Cooper 30. Bianca Russell 31. Stacey Michelsen 32. Anita Punt