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Ken Borland


More tough roads for SA hockey

Posted on July 14, 2017 by Ken

 

South African hockey has travelled some tough roads in the last 20 years, but few defeats have been more dismaying than the one their women’s team suffered at the hands of Chile in their Hockey World League Semifinal at the Wits Astro on Friday.

South Africa are ranked seven places higher than Chile in the world rankings and, given how well they played in their previous game, pushing South American giants Argentina all the way, there was plenty of expectation that the home side would beat Chile and seal their place in the quarterfinals.

Alas, the only goal was scored by Chile and the 1-0 defeat now means South Africa have to beat the USA, ranked sixth in the world, on Sunday to qualify for the knockout round.

South Africa began the game by doing some nice things on attack, but too many moves broke down due to basic errors and they struggled to get sufficient numbers through the circle, all their entries into the D only bringing one short-corner the whole match.

Chile were strong in midfield through the skilful duo of Agustina Venegas and Manuela Urroz, and they earned several short-corners. Goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande was forced to make a couple of good saves and Lisa-Marie Deetlefs also blocked and cleared a dangerous penalty corner.

A fine tackle by Quanita Bobbs and a good run by Candice Manuel set up South Africa’s short-corner just before the end of the first quarter, but the variation to the pusher was not accurate enough and the chance went begging.

At halftime the match was still goalless, a flat South African team seemingly not having the drive to outwork a committed Chile side.

Given all the short-corners Chile were getting, it was always likely they were going to score and it was Urroz who slid in and managed to get her stick to the ball to deflect in what turned out to be the winning goal just two minutes into the second half.

The sluggish home side continued to labour until just before the end of the third quarter, when Tarryn Glasby found a bit of space and fired in a strong shot, but Chile goalkeeper Claudia Schuler managed to get some equipment in the way.

South Africa belatedly raised their tempo in the final chukka, but it was too late by then. It summed up their match when, five minutes from time, the ball bobbled in front of the open goalmouth to Bernie Coston, but the seasoned striker could not scramble it home.

“At the end of the game we saw some movement and passes going forward, but it was too late by then to start playing combination hockey,” coach Sheldon Rostron complained.

“We didn’t have enough go-forward ability, you can’t just keep defending. We weren’t potent enough on attack. The approach of the team has to be better, sometimes it’s easier against the bigger teams because there’s not as much expectation. But against the teams ranked below you, you have to make sure you go out and perform, it’s about consistency. It’s about execution and we have to make sure it all comes together against the USA,” Rostron said.

The most alarming aspect of the South African performance was the lack of movement off the ball. The ball-carrier had far too few passing options and this stunted the attack, allowing the Chile defence to swarm around the circle and make it very hard for the home side to find a way through.

2 to “More tough roads for SA hockey”

  1. Sihle says:

    Greetings. Just out of curiosity, do we have a pro hockey league (for both men and womenn) in SA, or are these players selected from University/Club sides? The talent is obviously there, I just noticed that they (both men and women) were a bit lacking in two areas, namely skills and fitness, which the other teams were superior than us at.

    • Ken says:

      Hi Sihle.
      There are interprovincial tournaments played, from which the national squads are generally chosen. But the absence of a regular prestige league is a major weakness in the SA hockey system.
      So our top players play intense competition for a couple of weeks a year for their provinces, otherwise they play for their clubs or universities, and the standard is very mixed. The PHL – a franchise-based event – has been added to the calendar, but that only runs on for four weekends.
      The lack of regular, intense competition will certainly affect the players’ skills and fitness.
      Regards,
      Ken



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