The women’s team of South Africa produced an uninspired display as they were held to a goalless draw by Ireland in the fourth women's hockey Test at Hartleyvale on Saturday.
The visiting Irish produced their best hockey on their four-match tour of South Africa to date with a commendable second-half display. SA held the upper hand for most of the first half, thanks mainly to their midfield which held a vice-like grip on the game. In the absence of tight marking by the Irish the SA midfield strung together some cheeky passes on several sorties into the opposition. But the Irish defense was well organized and blanked out one attack after the other. There were, however, two excellent scoring chances from field goal opportunities but upfront SA's marksmen looked out of sorts.
However, there was one stand-out move by SA after 26 minutes but Jennifer Wilson's cross field hit through a maze of Irish defenders was missed by the unmarked Marcia Marescia, plumb in front of goals. More pressure from the hosts in the closing stages of the first half made for a few close calls for the Irish defense but at the halftime break SA had nothing to show for their efforts.
SA had to do without the services of the solid defender Lisa Deetlefs, who was out with concussion after being struck in the face during the third Test at Stellenbosch on Friday evening. Fortunately, Deetlefs did not suffer a fracture and will be in the SA squad to play in Argentina next week.
Play was far evenly matched in the second half when Ireland's midfield presented a far more solid platform for launching raids in the SA half. However, many of the Irish raids broke down because they failed to set up a link between midfield and attack. On the two occasions that Ireland broke through the middle, SA goalkeeper Mariette Rix single-handedly staved off disaster for the hosts with excellent footwork. In the face of Ireland's vastly improved second half SA still enjoyed penetration but they lacked the spark to set the match alight in the closing of the match which was played in howling windy conditions. The goalless stalemate was the best result yet for the visiting Irish in four matches, after they suffered three defeats in as many clashes going into Saturday's encounter.
Source: Herman Gibbs (SAPA)
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