After leading 1-0 at half-time, the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team went down 3-1 to world champions Argentina in the final of the Four Nations tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina late Sunday night (SA time).
In the second minute SA turned the ball over after a defensive lapse in the Argentine ranks. North West’s Celia Evans kept her head admirably and crossed from the left to 2004 Athens Olympian Liesel Dorothy of Eastern Province, who exhibited the neatest close control to put the underdogs 1-0 up amid a stunned silence from the incessantly raucous crowd.
Gradually the drums started beating again and the big question was; could SA sustain the levels of concentration, skill and attention to detail to win this match.
However, superb defensive work was mixed with critical errors in the second half and Argentine captain Noel Barrionuevo, Maria Fernandez and Carla Dupuy clinched the gold medal, while South Africa’s goal-scoring opportunities didn’t come off.
After SA’s early success, Free State’s Lesle-Ann George made a brilliant tackle to steal the ball away from a gilt-edged Argentine chance at goal before Daniela Sruoga smashed her effort into the post as the home country began weaving their trademark patterns across the length and breadth of the park.
Northern Blues and SA goalkeeper Sanani Mangisa closed Rosario Luchetti down before George made two superb tackles in critical situations but SA were done a disservice when a penalty corner was erroneously awarded against them by Indian umpire Nirmala Dogar. However, Mangisa was there.
Southern Gauteng team-mates Marsha Marescia, the national captain, and Lisa Deetlefs made a pair of excellent tackles but SA were again bewildered when Dogar awarded another PC with two minutes left.
The danger was averted – and then the half-time hooter sounded just after the third PC went Argentina’s way, but first-wave runner Sulette Damons of North West got out of the starting blocks at pace to block the shot and SA went into half-time 1-0 to the good.
Two early PCs after the break saw Mangisa save the first, but the second saw Argentine captain Noel Barrionuevo score after what appeared to be a misunderstanding in the SA defence (1-1).
Nine into the half and Maria Fernandez made an unchallenged left/right diagonal run into the strike zone to smash into the backboard in what appeared to be another consequence of indecision in the SA ranks (2-1).
SA finally stole away and Western Province’s Jade Mayne did well to win her side’s first PC but the shot from Kate Woods, her provincial captain, was blocked. WP forward Kathleen Taylor’s right cross just evaded Northern Blues striker Dirkie Chamberlains’ stick in the nine-yard box before Mangisa made a great save at point-blank range at the other end.
Carla Dupuy made it 3-1 after a goalmouth scramble, while SA were desperately unlucky at the other end after great work by Dorothy culminated in the ball rolling within much less than a metre of the goal-line.
SA had lost their round-robin match 4-1 to Argentina on Thursday night; an outcome that head coach Giles bonnet said was not a fair reflection considering South Africa’s significant number of entries into the strike zone.
Meanwhile, the exciting bronze medal match in Buenos Aires saw thrills and spills in either strike zone and it was India who outlasted Ireland 4-2 in the penalty shootout after the scores were still locked 1-1 at the end of extra-time.
Four Nations Round-Robin Results:South Africa 2 Ireland 0 Argentina 3 India 2 Ireland 1 India 0 Argentina 4 South Africa 1 South Africa 3 India 2 Argentina 2 Ireland 2 Third/fourth: Ireland 2-4 India Gold Medal Match: Argentina 3-1 South Africa