The South African Women’s hockey team were always going to face a tough encounter as they opened their 2018 Commonwealth Games against the much fancied England. There was a cautious optimism in the South African fan base as the ladies have shown glimpses of truly world-class performance in the past, and the team was eager to make that fan base proud!
South Africa started on the back foot but a great triple save by Phumelela Mbande kept England out before a good opportunity was just out of reach for the diminutive Stephanie Baxter from a Dirkie Chamberlain cross.
The first goal of the game did arrive in the first chukka and unfortunately, it was in the favour of England as Grace Balsdon rocketed a short corner into the back net with a venomous drive. Such was the velocity on the drive that the ball rebounded out of the D after it hit the board!
England then doubled their lead nine minutes later as Susannah Townsend squeezed a shot beyond Mbande after brilliant build-up play from Ellie Rayer and Alex Danson down the right. Although Mbande and later le Fleur were the busier goalkeepers, South Africa created some great chances but Maddie Hinch, the FIH Goalkeeper of the year for 2016 & 2017, was dominant to deny Jade Mayne, Sulette Damons the skipper and Dirkie Chamberlain. Keeping the game goalless.
South Africa 0-2 England
7 April – 11:32 – South Africa vs. Malaysia
The South African Men are a young side and were keen to gain experience and show a gritty performance in front of a large Gold Coast Crowd, in Clinton Panther’s 100th test cap. They were to meet a regular foe of the SA Hockey men in the game against Scotland. That foe would be their lack of cutting edge in front of goal.
The Scottish men were in glorious form and mood and raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter incredibly through three field goals. Robert Hardwood and Alan Forsyth scored either side of the goal of the game by Kenneth Bain as he roofed the ball with an incredible back stick.
In the third quarter, South Africa finally fought back from the shell-shocked first quarter and Gareth Heyns, the former UJ captain, netted from a penalty corner before skipper Tim Drummond pulled us back to within a goal of the Scots.
But just as hope had emerged, it quickly vanished with Bain again netting from a field goal and made it 4-2 which it would remain until the end of the game. The men will be feeling frustrated not just by the result but the inability to deny goal scoring opportunities from open play, while also failing to create enough chances from their 18 circle penetrations.
South Africa 2-4 Scotland
7 April – 08:32 – South Africa vs. Australia