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SPAR South Africa ladies that completed a whitewash against Zimbabwe. From L – Cheree Greyvenstein, Zimi Shange, Tegan Fourie, Robyn Johnson, Jessica O’Connor, Eloise Walters, Edith Molikoe, Jenna Shuker, Amore de Wet, Jamie Southgate & Cindy Hack (captain)

SPAR South Africa today completed a series whitewash against Zimbabwe in the first ever indoor hockey test series played in the country. The victory, in front of a full crowd at Hellenic Academy in Harare, was the fifteenth consecutive victory for SPAR South Africa.

Zimbabwe were desperate to give the home crowd something to celebrate and for the first time in the series found themselves in the lead when veteran striker Nicola Watson finished well. This sparked SPAR South Africa into action, but they found a resolute Zimbabwe backline repelling everything that was thrown at them. The pure weight of pressure was always going to tell, and it was Eloise Walters who finished on the rebound after another good save by Haasbroek in Zimbabwe’s goal.

SPAR South Africa continued to tighten the vice-like grip they had on the game and Zimbabwe were punished when they gave too much space to South African captain Cindy Hack who converted brilliantly. There was time for a penalty stroke for South Africa before half-time, but Tegan Fourie was denied by Haasbroek to keep the half-time score at 2-1.

The half-time break did nothing to quell the momentum that had turned in favour of SPAR South Africa and Jessica O’Connor got in on the action with a PC that was pure textbook from the fan favourite. Cindy Hack then extended the lead to 4-1 with a classy reverse stick flick. That goal underlined just how good Hack is when given space and probably how well Zimbabwe had done to limit those opportunities throughout the series.

To the delight of a packed crowd, Nicola Watson got her second of the night after superb work from Nicolle Grant and set up a potential grandstand finish. South Africa would not let happen though as they quickly regained the 3-goal lead through Jessica O’Connor. That would be the last goal of the game and would confirm the whitewash for South Africa.

Throughout the series there were large elements of things that would make coach Lennie Botha happy. The performance of debutants Edith Molikoe and Zimi Shange were fantastic, Edith adapted to International hockey superbly well for an 18-year-old and looked assured in rubbing shoulders with experienced duo Jess O’Connor and Cindy Hack.

Amore de Wet took the series to establish herself as one of the leaders in the South African defence while Cheree Greyvenstein left the South African selectors with tough decisions to make in the future regarding the goalkeeping situation. 

SPAR South Africa will next be in action in October when they host African Champions Namibia for the first time since the World Cup Qualifiers. It promises to be a thrilling series and an exciting opportunity for both teams to show their progress they have made.

Series Results

1st Test – Zimbabwe 2-4 South Africa
2nd Test – Zimbabwe 0-1 South Africa
3rd Test – Zimbabwe 2-6 South Africa
4th Test – Zimbabwe 0-3 South Africa
5th Test – Zimbabwe 2-5 South Africa

The fourth indoor hockey test match in the Psi International series between Zimbabwe and SPAR South Africa took place at Hellenic Academy in Harare today. With the series already decided after SPAR South Africa won the opening three games the expected release of pressure for both sides did not materialise.

A cagey first half was highlighted by missed opportunities and a big call to disallow a Cindy Hack moment of brilliance. The goals wouldn’t come despite a few moments of brilliance and the game dissolved into a tactical battle searching for the opening.

South Africa’s best opportunities came from Cindy Hack and Robyn Johnson, both denied well by Jaime Haasbroek. Zimbabwe created their own good opportunities through Nicola Watson and Lylie Wilde, but Cheree Greyvenstein was up to the challenge.

As coach Lennie Botha rang out instructions at half time, the capacity crowd were in full voice behind the stellar performance of the hosts. An African drum playing group of fans were creating an environment that English football would be proud of.

The second half started in the same tentative way, but Zimbabwe were being pushed further and further back and the pressure eventually told when the reliable Jessica O’Connor finished a superb flick to give the South Africans the lead.

A period of pressure almost like a torrential rain pour then faced the Zimbabwean defence as possession and territory must have been nearly 80% in favour of the South Africans and Jordyn Cripstone pulled off the save of the series when a shot was flying in to the top right corner. It was a remarkable stick save that the crowd thoroughly enjoyed.

The second goal did arrive for SPAR South Africa through a wonderful piece of play by Jamie Southgate and Edith Molikoe. The goal was a nice prize for an improved performance by Southgate today. With two minutes to go Cindy Hack got her goal with a delightful reverse stick flick.

For the remaining three minutes South Africa held the possession to see out the game. It was a very professional performance to confirm the second clean sheet of the series and a 4-0 lead.

Team assistant coach Brighy Mashaba shared his thoughts on the fourth test: “We were really happy with our defensive performance, especially not making any errors in the critical areas of the pitch. We were tactically aware of our position in the game and controlled our approach and tempo at the different phases in the game. This helped us create the pressure that ultimately proved to be the difference for us.”

Series Results

1st Test – Zimbawe 2-4 SPAR South Africa
2nd Test – Zimbabwe 0-1 SPAR South Africa
3rd Test – Zimbabwe 2-6 SPAR South Africa
4th Test – Zimbabwe 0-3 SPAR South Africa

The SPAR South Africa indoor side was able to seal the first ever indoor hockey test series in Zimbabwe as they won both test matches played at Hellenic Academy in Harare today. The series, being played in conjunction with the launch of Pro Series Indoor in Zimbabwe, is a fantastic sign of the growth of indoor hockey in Africa.

In the morning test match the SPAR South Africa and Zimbabwe ladies played out a scrappy game with the amount of chances proving to be far less than in the opening test match. South Africa started Zimi Shange in goals, her first International start, and she was arguably the busier keeper in the early stages as the high press from Zimbabwe reaped benefits.

Zimbabwe’s inability to take chances at key moments was a big area they were looking to improve on, but they would probably be frustrated by the profligacy in front of goal. SPAR South Africa were building momentum in the game and were creating a lot of circle entries but will be frustrated that they did not test Jaime Haasbroek in the Zimbabwe goals enough.

The game was crying out for a moment of quality and that’s exactly what you can expect from national captain Cindy Hack. Creating a pocket of space Hack lined up to strike and as the defenders moved she sliced off a beautiful cross that Tegan Fourie finished her 13th International goal in her 11th match for SPAR South Africa.

Incredibly it was the only goal of a game that saw Jordyn Cripstone and Zimi Shange silence anything that was thrown their way. The win put SPAR South Africa on the verge of a series victory, which they would look to clinch in the evening game.

SPAR South Africa were in far more clinical mood in the evening game and played some spells of truly scintillating hockey. Zimbabwe to their credit were putting in significant effort to stay with their neighbours but when the South African ladies turn it on and it clicks there are few defences that would cope.

There was a great moment when South Africa scored their first as Edith Molikoe got onto the end of a superb team movement to score her first International goal. It was an absolute exquisite ball from Eloise Walters that left Molikoe with the opportunity. It was 2-0 a few minutes later when Cindy Hack set up Tegan Fourie and the youngster scored her 14th International goal, matching her shirt number! Hack was at it again when she combined wonderfully with Molikoe and unselfishly gave the ball to the youngster to finish into an empty net.

There was time for one more in the half as Jessica O’Connor got in on the action with a low drive that beat Jaime Haasbroek in the goal. That was the end of a very satisfactory first half for South Africa and coach Lennie Botha would be much happier with that performance.

After a static opening ten minutes of the second half, the game raised its intensity when Zimbabwe were given a penalty stroke. Greyvenstein was adjudged to have gone through the back of Nicolle Grant. Grant herself dispatched the stroke like Chris Gayle hitting a 6.

That woke SPAR South Africa up from their temporary slumber and they fired two quick goals. First it was Jess O’Connor with her own net bursting flick before Tegan Fourie got her second of the night to make it 6-1. Cheree Greyvenstein made a fantastic save with her helmet as Zimbabwe asked questions but each one was answered with the confidence of a matric doing Grade 6 maths.

There was time for one more Zimbabwe goal to the delight of their home crowd, but in truth SPAR South Africa managed the game well and were never in major trouble. South Africa have now won the series but will still offer two more entertaining test matches over the next two days!

It was a perfect afternoon at Hellenic Academy School in Harare as Zimbabwe and SPAR South Africa took to the field in the first ever Indoor Hockey International match in the country. With the Pro Series Indoor launching on the same day, the crowd was full of excited youngsters and hockey lovers.

It was always going to be a historic first goal when it arrived, and the crowd did not have long to wait. Just 50 seconds in and Eloise Walter gave SPAR South Africa a lead. If they thought it was going to be a routine win, they would be very wrong. Zimbabwe took the game to SPAR South Africa with Iman Johnson being particularly impressive. Zimbabwe would pull level with their historic first ever home goal coming through their oldest player Nicola Watson.

SPAR South Africa took the lead again when skipper Cindy Hack scored from a penalty corner, it was a well worked goal through combination play with Jamie Southgate. Zimbabwe refused to lie down and threw everything they could muster and were rewarded with a punch of penalty corners. At the fifth attempt they finally converted one when Michelle Williams fired home a bullet.

The parity in the game did not last long as Edith Molikoe, making her debut for SPAR South Africa at the age of 18, produced a sublime pass that Tegan Fourie finished with a maturity that makes you forget she is still only 20! Despite a few chances for both sides the half ended 3-2.

The second half saw an improved defensive play from SPAR South Africa that limited chances for Zimbabwe, who had exerted everything in the first half and started to tire. The African champions created multiple chances but were unable to convert and were denied by some great goalkeeping by Cripstone in the second half. They also failed to finish a penalty stroke when Tegan Fourie struck the upright.  At this point Zimi Shange was substituted onto the field to earn her first cap for SPAR South Africa.

The goal that looked like it was always going to come, eventually did when Robyn Johnson showed some remarkable skill in her sixth test match to score her fourth international goal. Having dealt with a superb crowd supporting the home team, a quick turf, the light element that was challenging and adapting to new players in the squad, it was job done for Lennie Botha and his team. They would have areas identified to work on, but overall will be satisfied with the result.

New International capped players Edith and Molikoe shared their thoughts after the game.

“I am so excited to be part of this historic indoor test series and to be able to wear the national colours is a huge honour.” Said Shange, while Molikoe added: “It is a privilege to be able to represent your country at any level and I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity! We will make our country proud.”

Remaining matches of the Zimbabwe Indoor Test Series

11th August (10:00) – Second Test
11th August (18:00) – Third Test
12th August (16:00) – Fourth Test
13th August (16:00) – Fifth Test

It was almost poetic that on National Women’s Day, the SPAR South Africa women’s hockey team gathered together to travel to Zimbabwe for the first ever International Indoor Hockey test series played in the country.

On the back of the launch of the ever-popular Pro Series Indoor in Zimbabwe, the SPAR South African ladies will take on the hosts in a five-match series at Hellenic School in Harare. It is the first senior international hockey of any form played in Zimbabwe for about 8 years and a great sign for the development of African Hockey.

This is the first indoor hockey for SPAR South Africa since their victorious participation in the Croatia Cup in January and offers a small taste tester for the remainder of the year. There is a five-match series against Namibia planned for October, while a four-match exhibition series against a World All-Stars will meet the team in December.

SPAR South Africa will once again be led by 62-cap skipper Cindy Hack, who was player of the tournament in Croatia, and features Jessica O’Connor as the other senior player, having amassed 60 caps for the national team. The team also features two exciting new caps. 18-year-old Edith Molikoe, a prodigious talent from the Eastern Cape, will make her International debut and is a name that you will hear a lot about going forward. Zimi Shange has been around the squad for a while but will earn her first cap in this series as the alternate keeper with Cheree Greyvenstein.

“We are so incredibly excited to be here for the first ever indoor test series in Zimbabwe,” shared captain Cindy Hack “it’s a great opportunity to get back into the swing of indoor hockey and to introduce a few younger players to the international stage. We would like to thank SPAR for continuing to support our indoor hockey journey.”

In a warm up game yesterday, SPAR South Africa emerged victorious with a 7-1 victory over the super spirited Zimbabwe “A” side, young star Tegan Fourie netting four of the goals, with Cindy Hack, Jess O’Connor and Edith Molikoe getting the others. It was a great warm-up to get used to the venue, put together for this weekend specifically, and the incredibly quick floor provided by Belgotex.

With more than 200 kids playing in the Psi series, the SPAR South Africa side will be sure of a vociferous crowd supporting the home side and creating a challenging environment. What more could you ask for!

South Africa vs. Zimbabwe Test Series Fixture

10th August (16:00) – First Test
11th August (10:00) – Second Test
11th August (18:00) – Third Test
12th August (16:00) – Fourth Test
13th August (16:00) – Fifth Test

In August this year the SPAR South Africa Indoor Hockey Ladies will head to Zimbabwe for the 5 match test series against the Hosts as part of the launch of PSi Zimbabwe. It will be the first competitive action for SPAR South Africa since they romped to a Croatian Cup title in January this year. The team has been selected considering the 2017 IPT as well as the recent selection camp in Durban and there are some exciting inclusions in the squad.

Edith Molikoe is one of those players and is as Botha describes a player of “immense quality”. Edith will win her first cap for SPAR South Africa, and will be joined as a new cap alongside the exciting goalkeeping talent of Zimi Shange. Another selection that will excite fans is the return of Eloise Walters, an absolutely lethal threat in front of goal and Robyn Johnson has recovered from the broken hand that saw her miss out in Croatia in January. Another player that missed the Croatian Cup is Jenna Shuker who continues to deliver consistent quality. 

There have also been call ups for Amore de Wet, Cheree Greyvenstein, Tegan Fourie and  Jamie Southgate. The team will be anchored by the two most capped players in South African indoor hockey (Either gender) with Jessica O’Connor joined by the exceptional Cindy Hack, the national captain.

“We are excited by the team and the talent that we have available. For some of the team it is a chance to continue to develop as national hockey players and we have a great blend of talent and experience in the team. We had a superb training camp and the players who missed out are knocking on the door” share Lennie Botha.

The SPAR South Africa side will see a busy remainder to the year with a planned series against Namibia, the IPT and a four match international series at the PSi Nationals in December. If that was not enough there is also a tour to Poland planned in January next year for a further 5 test matches to look forward to.

PSi International Hockey Test Series (Zimbabwe)

10th August (16:00) – First Test
11th August (10:00) – Second Test
11th August (18:00) – Third Test
12th August (16:00) – Fourth Test
13th August (16:00) – Fifth Test

SPAR South Africa squad

No. Name Province
1 Amore de Wet North West
2 Tegan Fourie SPAR KZN Raiders
3 Cheree Greyvenstein (GK) SPAR KZN Raiders
4 Cindy Hack (Captain) SPAR KZN Raiders
5 Robyn Johnson Southern Gauteng
6 Edith Molikoe Eastern Province
7 Jess O’Connor SPAR KZN Raiders
8 Zimi Shange (GK) SPAR KZN Raiders
9 Jenna Shuker SPAR KZN Raiders
10 Jamie Southgate Tuffy Western Province
11 Eloise Walters KZN Inland
Management Team
Lennie Botha (Coach)
Brighty Mashaba (Video Analyst)
Robyn Morgan (Manager)

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)

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