The Investec South Africa women's hockey team earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over world number 17 Belgium at the University of Free State hockey centre in Bloemfontein Tuesday night.
Morgane Vouche made her 75th Test appearance for Belgium, but it was goalkeeper Elizabeth Achten's night as she flung herself left and right with stick, glove, pads and body in frustrating an SA attack that did everything but score.
Indeed, it took SA until eight minutes from the end to break the deadlock when Illse Davids deflected a superb goal from the girls in green and gold's eighth and last penalty corner.
Investec Player of the Match, the midfielder Tarryn Bright, as well as forward and fellow Western Province player Kathleen Taylor, were the outstanding South Africans on the night.
What was noticeable in their matches against world number 17 women's hockey nation Azerbaijan was the manner in which coach John Goldberg's Belgian side had tired in the second half – a situation which would be suicidal against the super-fit South Africans. But the Belgians played with remarkable tenacity in the face of a wave of SA attacks and Bright, Taylor, corner flicker Kim Hubach and a number of others all got in shots at goal that Achten managed to save.
The Belgians had two corners but shot both into the sideboard and never troubled SA keeper Mariette Rix.
The first shot in anger came in the 12th minute when a Hubach penalty corner flashed over the crossbar. For the next quarter-hour it was mayhem in the Belgians' circle as shots were fired in thick and fast at goalkeeper Achten but whether it was a diving stick save or agile lunge with the leg, the industrious Taylor, Hubach and Bright couldn't beat her.
Belgium were beaten 3-0 and 6-0 respectively in the two internationals against world number 17 Azerbaijan at the Kaspersky Randburg Astro Hockey Stadium in Johannesburg last week.
World number 12 SA have four Tests against Belgium and three internationals against world number four China at the University of Free State hockey centre.
After beating China 5-1 and Azerbaijan 5-0 in the 11 Test matches at Kaspersky Randburg Stadium and Wanderers Club in Johannesburg over the past fortnight, the Investec South Africa women's hockey team play seven Test matches during the Bloemfontein leg of the Investec International Series including the 1-0 victory over Belgium Tuesday.
In all, there are four Tests against Belgium and three against China.
With all the matches at the University of Free State hockey centre, SA will now meet China at 7 pm Wednesday, China at the same time Thursday with Friday a rest day.
On Saturday, SA face China at 5 pm and on Sunday the Proteas take on Belgium at 5 pm.
On Monday and Tuesday next week, SA tackle Belgium at 4 pm.
Source: SA Hockey World
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