South Africa secured a spot in the knockout stages of the FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup in Terrassa on Wednesday even though they lost by a solitary 2-1 to Australia, who are also through.
The result means South Africa finish ahead of Japan in the group on goal difference to progress above the higher ranked Asian team.
South Africa and Australia will meet in less than a month from now in the Commonwealth Games, but their minds were fully on their first meeting since the 2014 tonight in Terrassa.
For South Africa, the equation was fairly clear following Belgium’s 3-0 triumph over Japan. A defeat by two goals or any better result would secure a spot in the Cross Overs and keep the Top 8 possibilities alive.
South Africa created the first meaningful opportunity of the game, winning a penalty corner. The drag flick from Jean-Leigh du Toit was solid but fairly routine to save and the Australians surged forward in a counterattack that looked certain to find the back of the net.
They would find the back of the net though shortly afterwards as a stick tackle resulted in a penalty corner and the powerful shot from Penny Squibb deflected off of Mbande into the back of the net.
Australia were dominating the possession and the South Africans were having to keep their wits about them to not give away too many goal-scoring opportunities.
South Africa were awarded another penalty corner after a shot from Kristen Paton struck the foot. With Jean-Leigh du Toit off the field, Lilian du Plessis took on the drag flick duty and finished superbly to re-establish parity. It was a sublime goal from the experienced campaigner. And it remained 1-1 at the end of the first quarter.
Australia won the first penalty corner of the second quarter but the shot by Summerville was wide to the relief of the South Africans.
The African champions were inviting too much pressure from the Oceania juggernauts and were desperate to get some attacking ball.
Australia had a massive opportunity on the break and Malone had a golden chance to take the lead, but she snapped at the shot.
The next phase of play though resulted in a penalty corner for the Hockeyroos. Phumelela Mbande made a wonderful diving save but Malone reacted to the loose ball and fired it home superbly.
At the halftime break it was 2-1 a score that probably suited both teams.
The South Africans will now fly to Amsterdam where they will take on Germany in the cross over matches on Saturday. – SuperSport