Sulette Damons - in her 100th Test match, congratulates Izelle Lategan (right) on the SA U21 captain's second goal during South Africa's spirited encounter with India at the Champions Challenge in Dublin, Ireland Saturday. South Africa won the encounter 3-2 with a super hat-trick from Lategan, to set up the green and gold for Sunday’s fifth place playoff. Photo: Adrian Boehm

Golden girl Izelle Lategan clinched the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team’s 3-2 victory over India in the Champions Challenge in Dublin Saturday with a super hat-trick to set up the green and gold for Sunday’s fifth place playoff.

With golden goal extra time barely two minutes old and the teams locked 2-2, Lategan latched on to Bernie Coston’s pinpoint long ball after an initial pass by the superb Tarryn Bright from deep in the SA half. The SA U21 captain made space before striking the sweetest of backhands into the top of the net.

“It was a moment I can’t describe but we had spoken about strong mentality all week, and I knew it was chance I must take with both hands,” Lategan said.

SA will play Belgium for fifth place at 12.30 pm (SA time) Sunday in a match to be televised on SuperSport, the final at 5.30 pm (SA time) also on the sports broadcaster.

The drama that unfolded was scarcely contemplated after SA had led 2-0 through Lategan’s brace inside the opening seven minutes. “After taking the game to them so early, I thought the girls would maintain the pressure,” said SA assistant coach Fabian Gregory.

“I knew India would come back, but at the same time we also created a lot of opportunities,” said Gregory.

“Tarryn Bright and Sulette Damons were fantastic, while in Izelle Lategan we have found a gem. The decision to bring in the youngsters to broaden our player base has been a very good choice, while all the girls can feel exceptionally proud of their performance.”

The “dawn patrol’ match predictably drew the proverbial man and his dog as the passionate Irish fans saved themselves for their team’s evening semi-final against the USA, which would follow the other last-four clash between Australia and Scotland.

The players didn’t care and this action-packed affair exploded in the fourth minute when Bright moved right at SA’s second penalty corner and slammed the pass for Lategan to deflect home. Then Bright fed an unmarked Damons from the right before the offload saw Lategan coolly add another.

With seven minutes gone India were in dire straits as the SA coaching staff’s recognition that the Indian defence ball-watch was paying off handsomely. But there was much pride at stake for India after their losing the Olympic Qualifier final to SA in Delhi eight months ago.

Both sides made several dangerous entries into the strike zone before India’s well-executed second PC with 13 minutes to half-time resulted in Ritu Rani pulling one back as the Indians’ fluid running began to pay dividends.

SA’s 2-0 lead was history and much remained for them to do after the changeover as India had drawn strength from their strong showing in the second quarter.

Both sides traded chances as this thrilling match entered the final quarter, before Damons and Lategan combined for what could have been the killer goal with 10 minutes left.

SA had more very good goalscoring chances but Anupa Barla picked up a loose ball with three minutes left and her backhand shot slapped into the backboard for the equaliser.

The match went into golden goal extra time and it lasted barely two minutes Lategan’s memorable, match-winning strike.


Investec SA Champions Challenge Results and Fixtures:
29 Sep: RSA 0-1 (0-0) IRL
30 Sep: USA 4-2 (1-2) RSA
2 Oct: RSA 0-0 (0-0) SCO
4 Oct (Quarter-final): RSA 1-2 (1-1) AUS
6 Oct (Playoff): RSA 3-2 (2-1) India
7 Oct (5th place Playoff): RSA vs Belgium (12.30 pm SA time, live on Supersport)
Investec SA team:
Nicolene Terblanche (KZN Coastal Raiders)
Lillian du Plessis (Northern Blues)
Lenise Marais (KZN Coastal Raiders)
Kelly Madsen (KZN Coastal Raiders)
Sanani Mangisa (Southern Gauteng)
Marsha Marescia (Capt) (Southern Gauteng)
Lisa Deetlefs (Southern Gauteng)
Bernadette Coston (Southern Gauteng)
Lesle-Ann George (Free State)
Tanya Britz (Free State)
Izelle Lategan (Free State)
Illse Davids (Western Province)
Shelley Russell (Western Province)
Tarryn Bright (Western Province)
Lauren Penny (Western Province)
Jade Mayne (Western Province)
Quanita Bobbs (Western Province)
Sulette Damons (North West)