The SPAR South Africa Indoor Hockey Women’s have defeated African Champions Namibia 3-0 in a tough five match test series played at Danville Park Girls School in Durban North. The series was set-up brilliantly as it was the first time the two teams were meeting since the momentous African Cup final that ended 3-3 and was decided on showdowns. Since that match Namibia went to the Indoor Hockey World Cup placing a credible but also disappointing 9th, while SPAR South Africa went on a 15 match winning streak including a world record against Slovenia and a canter to the Croatia Cup title.
The series would also mark a number of debuts on each side but would feature heavily capped players, including Maggie Mengo and Jerrica Bartlett for Namibia and Jessica O’Connor and Cindy Hack for South Africa.
The opening game of the series saw international debuts for Lilian du Plessis, Alex Kavanagh and Jessica Lardant for SPAR South Africa. Although the newbies impressed the first blood was struck by SPAR South Africa as 66-capped Jessica O’Connor, the top scorer in the Zimbabwe series, continued her form with the opener. Lilian du Plessis, who has more than 100 outdoor caps for South Africa, got a goal on her debut and after Gillian Hermanus scored late on SPAR South Africa hung on for a good 2-1 win.
In the second match SPAR South Africa gave themselves the chance to seal the series fairly early with another 2-1 win. This time the opener came from Eloise Walters playing in her 35th test match, as early as the second minute. Sunelle Ludwig pulled one back before Lilian du Plessis made it 2 in 2 to seal a 2-0 series lead.
The classic third game challenge struck again for SPAR South Africa who cruised to a 3-1 lead thanks to a second half brace from Jessica O’Connor either side of a strike from the recalled Amy Greaves. Maggie Mengo, in her 49th game for Namibia, had earlier given Namibia the lead. But in almost identical circumstances to the African Cup final, South Africa let the 3-1 lead slip and a Gillian Hermanus brace meant a 3-3 draw kept the series alive.
There was no back door left open for Namibia in the fourth game as SPAR South Africa sealed the series with an emphatic 3-0 victory. Eloise Walters rediscovered hera goal scoring form to settle the game with two late strikes after Cindy Hack in her 71st game for the country gave SA the early lead. The clean sheet was deserved for a fine performance from Zimi Shange making important saves when necessary. Maggie Mengo got her 50th cap, becoming the first Namibian indoor hockey player to achieve 50 caps.
With the series already tied, the final game probably offered the most entertainment. Gillian Hermanus got her 4th and 5th goal of the series to give Namibia a 2-0 half-time lead. Jessica Lardant pulled one back with her first international goal before Dure Boshoff re-established the 2 goal cushion. The shoe was on the other foot though as South Africa sought to keep a remarkable undefeated run going and Edith Molikoe pulled one back with 3 minutes remaining before Jessica Lardant got her second in the second last minute to secure a 3-3 draw and a 3-0 series win for the hosts.
The victory in the series without tasting a defeat in a single match means SPAR South Africa have now gone undefeated in normal time in 25 consecutive test matches dating back to 27 November 2016. Coach Lennie Botha will be happy with the result but also with the continued development of a greater SPAR SA Indoor Hockey squad, now being able to call on around 20 different players with International experience. It’s bound to create some tough selection decisions ahead of the Psi All Stars series in December, but it’s a problem that I am sure Botha will be excited by!