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The final day of the 2018 Croatian Indoor Cup offered the tantalising prospect of knock out hockey, something that has caused immense excitement in various tournaments around the globe over the last 12 months. The nerves for SPAR South Africa would be there as they know that more than anyone else about the possibilities of the winner takes all one-off games.

Semi-Final – SPAR South Africa vs. Slovenia

Slovenia welcomed back their first choice keeper, Aleksandra Dervaric, and it was quickly evident that she would be in for a busy morning. To her credit she was more than up to the task and made save after save to keep the South Africans at arm’s length. In fact in the opening 15 minutes only Kara Botes and Heather McEwan managed to breach her goal after finding an inspired keeper. SPAR South Africa was soon rewarded for their persistence, however, as Celia Evans, Kara Botes and Heather McEwan all scored before the break to give it a little gloss on the scoreboard!

The second half saw the tides turn as wave after wave of South African attack produced goals a galore. Cindy Hack scored back-to-back goals, a trademark for SPAR South Africa in this series, and quickly saw the lethal Kara Botes make it 8 from a penalty corner. Celia Evans and then the Hack, Botes duo each got further goals to make it 11-0.

The Slovenians, who had earlier in the tournament secured an outstanding victory against Slovakia, refused to give up and although they conceded two more goals to Tegan Fourie and Celia Evans, they refused to quit playing and their development will be speedier for experiences of this tournament.

SPAR South Africa would now contest the final against the hosts Croatia who earlier saw off Slovakia in an exciting 8-2 result.

Final - SPAR South Africa vs. Croatia

The final was expected to be a hotly tested match with Croatia saving their best for the final game in front of their home crowd. But it was the SPAR South Africa ladies that seemed more up for the fight, maybe spurred on by the fact that family was able to watch a live streamed game on Facebook.

Croatia throughout the tournament had made fast starts to the matches and anticipating this, SPAR South Africa took the game to their hosts from the opening whistle. Celia Evans took the lead for SA in the fourth minute and lethal short corner queen Kara Botes fired in a second just 60 seconds later.

Croatia was looking for an olive leaf of opportunity, but would not find South Africa in a charitable mood. Instead by half-time, the score was 4-0 through Kelly Reed and Heather McEwan.

The second half followed a similar pattern as SPAR South Africa bossed possession and then would sporadically create chances. The chances were converted fairly regularly as Kara Botes, Cindy Hack and Kelly Reed scored before Kara Botes fired in her hat-trick goal to make it 8-0. Fittingly SPAR South Africa’s captain scored the final goal for SA as they took a 9-0 lead with 7 minutes left.

To the delight of the home crowd, Croatia were able to score a consolation goal through Una Litvic, but they knew they had been second best in every single facet of the game and SPAR South Africa were the worthy and unquestionable winners.

 

Awards

Best Player – Cindy Hack (SPAR South Africa)
Top Goalscorer – Kara Botes (SPAR South Africa)
Best Goalkeeper – Iva Zlomisilic (Croatia)

SPAR South Africa vs. Croatia

After a successful opening day SPAR South Africa was presented with, on paper, their hardest test of the group stages taking on the hosts and defending champions Croatia. Croatia was clearly out to stamp their early authority on the game and in truth the SPAR South Africa ladies were a little slow in starting.

However, after four minutes of pressure from Croatia, it was the South Africans who had the best chance to score when Celia Evans fired wide. It had been immense game management from the African ladies as they soaked up the pressure and then turned up the heat in fantastic fashion. That African heat was starting to break through the Croatian cold, but it was only after 17 minutes that the deadlock was finally broken. Jessica O’Connor broke through the back and played the perfect pass to Kelly Reed who waited for the keeper to advance before setting up Cindy Hack to score.

It was less than a minute later and the Croatian keeper was picking the ball out the net again, this time Reed kept hold of the ball and made it 2-0, a score that would remain until halftime.

The start of the second half would have seen coach Lennie Botha well impressed as the ladies maintain the pre-halftime pressure and Cindy Hack quickly made it 3-0, Kelly Reed made it 4-0 and with a bit of time left in the game, it was 5-0 as Hack completed her hat-trick.

There was still time for Cheree Greyvenstein to pull off a superb double save straight off the bench and offer themselves an opportunity to preserve the clean sheet, which the team duly did. Top spot a near certainty already with a game remaining in the group stage.

After the game Kelly Reed shared her thoughts:

“We started the game a bit poorly and we were trying to force it a bit. We settled into the game and then started scoring some great goals. I think that we have been playing together for a long time and you can see that on the court. We have a good attacking mindset and that’s enjoyable to play in a team like that!”

SPAR South Africa vs. Slovenia

Having seen Croatia surprisingly lose to Slovakia just before the game started, SPAR South Africa were well aware that top spot was merely a formality. They then took apart a Slovenian side with the kind of efficiency that would have my accounting lecturer beaming. The Slovenians were without their first choice keeper due to illness, but the South Africans knew the season of giving was long gone. Instead what ensued was 40 minutes of target practice and 21 goals (The highest score at a Hockey World Cup is 19-1). Kara Botes and Celia Evans were devastating in their efficiency and seven different scorers put goals away for the South Africans in the most one-sided display.

And so one day and two matches remain. The SPAR South Africa side has been immense so far and need to carry it one step further. They play in the semi-final at 11:20 with a potential final at 15:20.

Croatia Cup Results

South Africa 5 – 0 Croatia
Slovakia 3 – 2 Croatia
South Africa 21 – 0 Slovenia

The weather had warmed up slightly in Zagreb as the 2018 Croatian Cup got underway at the Zelina Sports Hall. It was probably an early indication that things were about to heat up on the court and it didn’t take long for that to be the case.

Slovakia vs. SPAR South Africa

The SPAR South Africa ladies started the match on fire and were awarded for that dominant display up front as Kelly Reed won two penalty corners and Kara Botes finished off the second to give an early lead. It was a statement of intent and a statement that was duly backed up over the remainder of the first half.

The SPAR South Africa ladies were showing their experience and Kelly Reed, Cindy Hack, Kara Botes and in particular Celia Evans were combining regularly with devastating impact. SPAR South Africa led 6-0 at halftime with keeper Nicole la Fleur only having to make one save the whole half. Instead, all the action was happening in the Slovakian half, in the first ever test between these two nations. Each of Kara Botes, Kelly Reed, and Cindy Hack had earned themselves a brace.

The second half saw a slight improvement in the defensive play from the Slovakians and they managed to pull a goal back when a shot on target was blocked with a foot to award the Slovakians a Penalty stroke that was well converted although Greyvenstein did get a touch to it. That, however, just saw the South Africans raise their game further. Some of the combination play on view was simply superb and, with a little more finesse the score could have been higher than the Indian Cricket team’s against the Protea’s today!

Cindy Hack finished off her hat-trick and netted another after great teamwork, while Kelly Reed also got a hat-trick. The other goal was scored by Heather McEwan after a fine assist from the lively Celia Evans. And that took the game to a 10-1 finish and a successful start for the SPAR South Africa side.

“Today we really brought it on the court. There were times today when I almost wanted to just step back and watch because our teamwork in offensive play was fantastic. Everyone played for the team and there were very few errors. It’s also rewarding that in games like that it’s easy for the level to drop off, but the fact that we only gave away one PC in the whole game shows that we were on our game from first to the last whistle!” shared Celia Evans after the opening victory.

SPAR South Africa 9-0 Croatia League Select

SPAR South Africa’s second game of the night was an exhibition game against the Croatian “League Select” side, a group of up and coming players all aged around 18. The game itself is not an official test match (much like a Barbarians Rugby game) and does not form part of the points table for the Croatian Cup.

SPAR South Africa was workmanlike and hat-tricks from Kelly Reed and Tegan Fourie inspired a complete 9-0 victory. (Cindy Hack, Celia Evans and Jess O’Connor got the other three)

Croatia Cup 2018 – Day 1 Results

South Africa 10 – 1 Slovakia

Slovenia 5 – 3 Slovakia

Croatia 9 - 1 Slovenia

The SPAR South African ladies touched down in a freezing cold Zagreb yesterday, ahead of their first ever venture into the Croatian Cup. Following on from the successful SPAR test series against Zimbabwe, the Croatia Cup is seen as an apt opportunity to begin the journey to the next Indoor Hockey World Cup.

The Croatian Cup will be contested between the hosts Croatia, SPAR South Africa, Slovenia and Slovakia. Each team will also play a non-test match against a Croatia “League Select” side. The finals and semi-finals will take place on Sunday, with a winner being crowned.

For Coach Lennie Botha, nearing 100 international indoor caps, it is an exciting opportunity while also admitting that there is a major sense of the unknown too.

“The strength of European Hockey means that the rankings for the sides outside the top 8 are often not fully representative of the abilities of the teams. Croatia is going to be an incredibly tough team to play, but we are here to try and win the tournament.”

In the squad is the experienced trio of players to have reached 50 indoor hockey caps for South Africa in Cindy Hack (Captain), Kara Stella and Jessica O’Connor. They are also joined by 2016 SA Hockey Player of the year Celia Evans and together they will look to help guide the early careers of the three ladies who made their debuts against Zimbabwe, Tegan Fourie, Jamie Southgate and Cheree Greyvenstein.

There will be no live TV coverage, but Tyron Barnard is in Croatia and will be doing live updates on Twitter during games, follow him @TyronBarnard.

SA Squad

Cindy Hack (Captain), Nicole la Fleur (GK), Cheree Greyvenstein (GK), Celia Evans, Jessica O’Connor, Kelly Reed, Kara-lee Botes, Tegan Fourie, Jamie Southgate, Heather McEwan & Amore de Wet.

Management – Lennie Botha (Coach), Brighty Mashaba (Assistant Coach / Video Analyst) and Robyn Morgan (Manager)

Fixtures for Croatia Cup (Times are Croatian, 1 hour behind South Africa)

South Africa Ladies triumph over Namibia in Indoor Hockey Test series

The two strongest African Indoor Hockey sides took each other on in Swakopmund this weekend as both look to step up their preparations towards the 2018 FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup. There were some great games as the two sides continue to trade punches in each series they play against each other. The background for this series was set immensely well after South Africa won the previous series 3-1 in Durban (with one tie) and Namibia were unable to participate in the South African IPT after the quota of teams was filled. Namibia wanted to prove that they can be the continents best team, while South Africa wanted to prove that they are the undisputed number 1.

The South African squad featured a mix of experience and new caps as Isabella da Rocha, Nicole de Vries, Natasha Rootenburg and the dynamic Heather McEwan all received their first caps for the green and gold. The Namibians featured a largely young side, with PSi experience, including their own four debutants in Dure Boshoff (16 years old!), Sunell Ludwig (18 years old), Zaan Marie-Niemand and Lidia Simon. It would also be the first series to take place at the Dome in Swakopmund, a fantastic venue for indoor hockey.

The opening test match, South Africa laid siege on the Namibian goal but were kept out at every attack before finally debutant Heather McEwan and skipper Cindy Hack made it 2-0 at half-time. Namibia fought back in the second half with a goal through Fenesta Pienaar, but as the Namibians poured forward looking for an equaliser, Kelly Madsen, who has represented her nation in both indoor and outdoor hockey stole the show with a goal just three minutes from time. South Africa triumphing 3-1 and taking a 1-0 lead in the series.

The second test proved once again how tight these games can be when the first half ended 2-1 in the favour of the South Africans. Shelley Higgo and McEwan made it 2-0 when once again the SA ladies allowed Namibia back in the game when Maggie Mengo scored a superb solo goal. Nambia once again started the second half strongly but a staunch SA defence held them at bay before Cindy Hack netted on a counter for the 3-1 lead and shortly thereafter a 4-1 lead. With Hanli Hattingh denying everything the Namibians could muster, Hack then went up the other end and made it 5-1. Marcia Venter would score a late consolation goal but SA would take a 2-0 lead in the series thanks to the 5-2 result.

The third test of the series produced one of the better matches of the series as Namibia woke up on Saturday knowing a defeat would end their chances of a series victory. The two sides had drawn 0-0 in Durban earlier this year and at half-time that very uncommon scoreline in Indoor Hockey had repeated itself. Once again Heather McEwan was at hand to give SA the lead, before Hack and Madsen both scored to set SA on the way to victory. The incredibly feisty encounter had a consolation goal for Namibia through Venter but South Africa had won the battle and the war by clinching the series with two games to go.

The dead rubber matches were anything but, as the physicality of the battles intensified and Cindy Hack, SA’s inspirational captain, suffered an injury that would rule her out of the remaining test. Namibia for the first time in the series started with the intensity and ruthlessness many had expected but had not materialised. They almost seemed liberated by the pressure being off. Dunelle van Taak took the first goal before Southern Gauteng stopper Petro Stoffberg kept the SA ladies at bay and Namibia sent the crowd into raptures when Marcia Venter made it 2-0. Cindy Hack scored to bring SA back into the game, but suffered an injury that ended her involvement. Her team appeared galvanised to get one back for the skipper and levelled through Madsen. But as has been the case before Marcia Venter popped up with an incredible solo goal to seal just Namibia’s fourth ever win against SA (2 in Namibia, 2 in SA). 3-2 the final score.

And so to Sunday as the bruised bodies took to the courts for the final game of the series. Once again the first half produced very few goals as the teams felt each other out. Once again the team that scored first ended up winning the game. Dunelle van Taak with the only goal in the first half gave Namibia a 1-0 lead, but Heather McEwan popped up to cancel that lead just 5 minutes into the second half. Petro Stoffberg was in inspired form, and few will argue of her importance to Namibia in the African Qualifiers next year, as she batted out chance after chance for a tired South African side. Nambia then put the game to bed with three quick goals through van Taak and a brace for the brilliant Marcia Venter. The final score of 4-1 was Namibia’s biggest victory against South Africa and marked their best series performance by winning two games.

All in all it was another great series of Indoor Hockey between Africa’s best with both sides having some great positives from the series and some big things to think about. I can’t wait to see the next game between these two quality sides.

Article by Tyron Barnard
Photos by “The Namibian”


JONATHAN COOK

The Spar South African women’s indoor hockey team has been named to take part in a five-Test series against Namibia and participate in the Spar Four Nations tournament in Durban and Pietermaritzburg next month.

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JONATHAN COOK
at PMB Girls’ High

The South African Indoor Hockey Interprovincial Tournament (IPT) titles changed hands in exciting finals at Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School Saturday evening.

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JONATHAN COOK


Pietermaritzburg Girls' High School product Kara Stella (left) and Carter High School product Tracy Martens celebrate South Africa's 4-2 ninth place victory over Canada at Indoor Hockey World Cup 2015 in Leipzig Arena, Germany Saturday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

THE South Africa teams finished in their best final positions since the inception of the IHWC at Indoor Hockey World Cup 2015 in Leipzig Arena, Germany at the weekend to rocket up the world rankings.

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Men: (See their Facebook page)
Day 1
Poland 8 RSA 3
RSA 0 Netherlands 5

Day 2
RSA 2 Russia 10
Canada 5 RSA 5

Day 3
Switzerland 4 RSA 1

Men's Pool A (completed)

1. Germany (15 points)

2. Austria (10 points)

3. Sweden (5 points)

4. Iran (4 points)

5. Czech Republic (4 points)

6. Australia (2 points)

Men's Pool B (completed)

1. Russia (13 points)

2. Netherlands (10 points)

3. Poland (9 points)

4. Switzerland (7 points)

5. Canada (1 point)

6. South Africa (1 point)

9 - 12 place Crossover Match
Czech Republic 4 RSA 2 (RSA will meet Canada in the 11th/12th place playoff)

Women:
(See their Facebook page)

Day 1
Netherlands 14 RSA 0
RSA 3 Czech Republic 5

Day 2
RSA 0 Belarus 11
Poland 5 RSA 1

Day 3
Kazakhstan 5 RSA 5

Women's Pool A (completed)

1. Germany (12 points)

2. Australia (12 points)

3. Austria (6 points)

4. Ukraine (4 points)

5. Canada (1 point)

6. Belgium (0 points)

Women's Pool B (completed)

1. Netherlands (12 points)

2. Czech Republic (9 points)

3. Poland (7 points)

4. Belarus (7 points)

5. South Africa (1 point)

6. Kazahkstan (1 point)

9 - 12 place Crossover Match
RSA 2 Belgium 2 (RSA win 3 - 1 on Shoot Out. RSA will meet Canada in the 9th/10th place playoff)

Men: (See their Facebook page)
Day 1
Poland 8 RSA 3
RSA 0 Netherlands 5

Day 2
RSA 2 Russia 10
Canada 5 RSA 5

Pool A:
(After four games each)
1. Germany (12 points)
2. Austria (9 points)
3. Iran (4 points)
4. Czech Republic (3 points)
5. Australia (2 points)
6. Sweden (2 points)

Pool B:
(After four games each)
1. Russia (10 points)
2. Netherlands (10 points)
3. Poland (6 points)
4. Switzerland (4 points)
5. Canada (1 point)
6. South Africa (1 point)

Women: (See their Facebook page)

Day 1
Netherlands 14 RSA 0
RSA 3 Czech Republic 5

Day 2
RSA 0 Belarus 11
Poland 5 RSA 1

Pool A:
(After four games each)
1. Germany (12 points)
2. Australia (12 points)
3. Austria (6 points)
4. Ukraine (4 points)
5. Canada (1 points)
6. Belgium (0 points)

Pool B:
(After four games each)
1. Netherlands (12 points)
2. Czech Republic (9 points)
3. Poland (7 points)
4. Belarus (7 point)
5. South Africa (0 points)
6. Kazahkstan (0 points)

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