Pietie Coetzee is well known in the USA for her coaching work with the University of Massachusetts. The team, which is currently a top 10 college team in the highly competitive national collegiate system is aiming high and Coetzee hopes the team will attain a top four spot within the next season.
That ambition and drive to succeed, along with a desire to always perform better, has been a hallmark characteristic throughout the South African hockey player’s career. The world's most prolific female scorer, a talisman for the South African team for more than 16 years, Coetzee was the ultimate professional. Nowhere was this more evident than when she stepped into the national squad as an injury replacement at the Rabobank Women’s World Cup in the Hague, Netherlands in 2014.
Despite not expecting to play in the Hague, and despite her entire career to that point being focused on scoring goals, Coetzee answered her nation’s call and turned up in the Netherlands to take up responsibilities as the right defender.
“In many ways it was like playing my first major competition,” she says with a smile. “It was completely unfamiliar territory for me, but I think there was a specific reason why the coach wanted me to fulfil that position, not necessarily as a defender but to start attacking moves from that right back position. I thoroughly loved being there. It was an honour and privilege to be at a major tournament and that is how I saw it.”
The moment that sealed Coetzee’s place in our selection of hockey’s legendary moments took place in South Africa’s final match. Playing Japan, the South African team won a penalty corner in the 59th minute of the game. It was the moment that both Coetzee and the team had been waiting for.
“At that stage I was really just trying to do my best in that right back position so I knew I wouldn’t get many chances at goal. But, of course, when it is a penalty corner, I always have a chance. I waited a long time in that tournament – it seemed whenever we won a penalty corner, I was off the pitch.
“But that goal, it was a drag flick and I got hold of it very nicely. It was epic because it was my final goal in my final game for South Africa. I always feel a real tension when I am taking a penalty corner and then there is a huge release.
“I always felt huge exhilaration when I scored a goal and that was no different in that respect. But I also knew it was my last game, so that made it extra special and I feel that is what the team felt too in the celebrations that followed. It was a fitting farewell. My first World Cup in 1998 was also in the Netherlands [Utrecht], so it felt like I was completing the circle.”
That goal was the 282nd of Coetzee’s international career and it broke her own world record for the most international goals by a female hockey player. You can now relive that special moment as we replay Pietie Coetzee’s final international goal for South Africa.
Watch the full interview with Pietie Coetzee by and relive the goal by .