South Africa were unable to marry their stellar defensive efforts with an attacking edge in the Women’s Hockey World Cup over the weekend, with defeats to Germany and Ireland in Amstelveen condemning them to the playoffs for 13th-16th spot.
Taking on powerhouses Germany for a place in the quarterfinals, goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande led an amazing defensive effort that saw South Africa miss out on a top-eight finish by just a single goal.
They had kept the world’s fourth-ranked team goalless in the first half, but an early penalty corner strike in the second half proved the difference in a 1-0 defeat, that nevertheless made an impression on the world of hockey.
The defeat on Saturday evening meant South Africa had to play again less than 18 hours later against an enthusiastic Ireland team for a finish in the top-12.
Sell themselves short
Unfortunately, having put up such a stout effort in the previous game, the team’s lack of energy reserves caused them to sell themselves short in a 2-0 defeat.
After a bright start, South Africa gradually began falling off the pace, with ill-discipline and cards not helping their cause. Ireland began to take control of the match and it was only a heck of a defensive effort again which kept them to two goals. The Irish enjoyed 13 penalty corners to 1 and had 24 circle entries compared to South Africa’s 14.
“We’re disappointed with how we played,” Lilian du Plessis, who earned her 150th cap on Sunday, said. “We let ourselves down a bit technically, we knew what to do tactically and it worked when we executed it properly.
“It was tough playing so soon after the Germany match, but we can’t use that as an excuse because individually we were not good enough.
“We need to regroup and refocus now, put lots of prep into our next game and try to fix what we got wrong today,” Du Plessis said.