SA hockey women close in on Olympics
23 February 2012
The South African women's hockey team is on the verge of qualifying for the London 2012 Olympic Games after securing a place in the final of the Olympic Qualifier Tournament in New Delhi with a 5-2 win over India on Wednesday.
A fantastic effort during the last quarter of the match broke open a 2-2 tie between the Investec-sponsored side and the hosts, and ensured that Giles Bonnet's charges will play for a place at the London Olympics in New Delhi on Saturday.
A superb Dirkie Chamberlain hat-trick and an impressive brace from fellow striker Sulette Damons was enough to douse the fire of a spirited India, who had fought their way back to 2-2 midway through the second half after trailing 2-1 at half-time.
"This one will go in the memory bank," said Chamberlain after the game.
South Africa played without the most prolific goal scorer in the history of the women's game for the second match in succession as Pietie Coetzee (232 goals in 236 tests) sat out the contest because of a viral infection.
"We love having Pietie with us," said Chamberlain, "but, as strikers, it is the job of all of us to score goals. We have looked at our mistakes on video from previous games, have learnt from them, and are now out to get goals.
"I have been struggling to get goals and have been trying to force it, but finally today I found the breakthrough and am so happy to be on the scoresheet."
"We miss Pietie, as she is an inspiration, but when she is not there it is up to us youngsters to stand up and be counted," said an elated Damons.
'Five beautiful goals'
"We are now one game away from qualifying for the Olympic Games and the team is in good spirits after scoring five beautiful goals," said South Africa's Dutch trainer, Phil Estourgie.
South Africa has one more match to play before the final, but it will have no effect on the title-decider. "We haven't thought about the Canada game yet, but will look at it with the final on Saturday in mind,” added Estourgie.
After Wednesday's 5-2 win over India, South Africa has 10 points. Italy is in second place on eight points, followed by India on seven. India and Italy meet in the last round of league competition on Friday. A draw would take Italy into the final against South Africa, while India needs a win to reach the final and knock Italy out of the reckoning at the same time.
Chamberlain opened the scoring in Wednesday's clash in the 13th minute following a goalmouth scramble after Indian goalkeeper Yogita Bali had saved Kate Woods's third penalty corner attempt.
Ten minutes later, India equalised from their third penalty corner, which was buried by captain Asunta Lakra.
The 2011 SA Player of the Year Tarryn Bright was in outstanding form as the attacking midfielder but it was captain Marsha Marescia's pass to the incisive Shelley Russell that set up the second goal just three minutes from half-time when the superb Chamberlain once again pounced on a rebound to score.
Turning around 2-1 to the good, South Africa founded themselves under pressure as Indian launched a series of attacks, earning a number of penalty corners, while a cracking Rani Rampal shot from field play cannoned off the post.
The pressure eventually told and midway through the second half India equalised from their sixth penalty corner of the match when Soundarya Yendala shovelled the ball over the line after Lakra’s shot had been stopped.
At 2-2, with 17 minutes left, the momentum was with India, but the girls in green and gold upped their effort and equalised from the re-start when Bernadette Coston cut in from the left for striker Sulette Damons to round off and put coach Giles Bonnet's team back in front.
That goal galvanised the South Africans and five minutes later a quick, accurate Nicolene Terblanche free-hit was met with a perfect deflection high into the net by hat-trick hero Chamberlain.
Not to be outdone, Chamberlain's strike partner Damons netted her second goal after yet another superb assist from the hugely influential Kathleen Taylor.
SOUTH AFRICAN RESULTS
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