SPAR South Africa Indoor Hockey Ladies arrived at the Pro Series Indoor Nationals on the back of a superb 2018 that saw them win 13 of the 15 test matches they have played, without tasting defeat. They were expected to see that run end when they took on a star studded International All-Stars at UCT in the first of a four match exhibition series. They had other plans.
Although the matches do not have official test match status, Lennie Botha was keen for his team to continue the momentum built up over the year ahead of tours to Switzerland and Czech Republic in January. The meticulous coach, who recently achieved his 50th indoor hockey test victory in charge of SPAR South Africa, will be thrilled by what he saw in front of a capacity crowd at UCT Sports Hall.
Dutch striker Kiki van Wijk, a Kampong star and a driving force for Netherlands at the Indoor Hockey World Cup, opened the scoring for the International All-Stars but the SPAR South African ladies fought back immediately and after Alex Heerbaart twice denied Edith Molikoe she was helpless to stop a superb flowing move by South Africa that Tegan Fourie finished superbly.
Almost immediately there was a controversial penalty stroke awarded to the International All-Stars and 17-year-old Namibian Kiana Cormack, the top scorer at the 2018 Indoor Hockey World Cup, made certain from the spot. The International All-Stars had the momentum, but their sails were not just taken down they were torn apart when Cheree Greyvenstein pulled off a save that defied the inevitability of a goalbound effort and led to a goal for South Africa. It’s very difficult to describe the save here, but it was as good as the most sensational goals as Greyvenstein grabbed the ball from behind her, on the line, before creating a counter attack with the distribution. Kelly Reed, returning to the team for the first time since the victorious Croatia Cup was on the end of the equalizer after a superb combination with Cindy Hack and Lilian du Plessis.
The half-time break was welcome for both sides as the pace of the game had been fantastic and the crowd of approximately 2000 were treated to some scintillating hockey.
South Africa started the second half with the same intensity and relied on Greyvenstein for the few times the International All-Stars managed to get past. Greyvenstein was up to the task making three fantastic saves of differing quality to deny Janne Muller-Wieland, Alli Meeke and Kiana Cormack. She was helpless to stop Polish captain Marlena Rybacha who made it 3-2 from a penalty corner eight minutes into the second half.
Once again SPAR South Africa refused to accept that and surged forward with Kelly Reed netting a second with the quickest reaction after Heerbaart had denied Tegan Fourie. In the final five minutes the South Africans looked fitter and stronger and thought they had the game won with a last-minute goal that was disallowed and a final second penalty stroke that was overruled. The game ended 3-3 in a fantastic display of hockey and an exceptional advert for the game of indoor hockey.
The teams played out a shootout to decide the winner for the crowd which Alli Meeke settled with a superb finish, to win the showdowns. For the crowd gathered if this was the starter, the main course and dessert will be even better.
After the game International All-Stars skipper Janne Muller-Wieland shared her thoughts: “I knew there would be a good atmosphere, but it was almost like being at the World Cup final all over again. I thought the South Africans played well, it was a close game, but I think the hockey will be even better over the coming days! I can’t wait to get back on the court again!”
While South African hero Cheree Greyvenstein was extremely excited after the game: “It’s a dream come true playing for my country in front of a crowd like this, it’s something I dreamt about as a youngster and here I am doing it. I enjoyed my goal line save the most on the night, but mostly I am so proud of my team. We played incredibly well and I’m super excited for the rest of the series!”
Psi Exhibition Series – Game 1
South Africa 3 (Kelly Reed  & Tegan Fourie)
International All-Stars 3 (Kiki van Wijk, Marlena Rybacha & Kiana Cormack)
The remaining matches of the series all take place at UCT Sports Centre at 18:30 on the 15th, 18th and 19th December.