It was a largely tentative opening affair as African neighbours South Africa, proudly sponsored by SuperGroup, and Namibia took each other on in the first of three test matches at Randburg Astro. There was a large element of excitement in the air as it was the first international hockey played by the South African Women at home since 2017. To give the excitement of the hockey public context, Kristen Paton has played for South Africa at the African Cup, Commonwealth Games and World Cup, but this was her first test match at home.
Along with KP’s first home game it also marked the test debuts for Hannah Pearce, Nomnikelo “Nicky” Veto, Robyn Johnson and the youngster in the team Bianca Wood. Alongisde that Robin van Ginkel and Inky Zondi headed up the team for the first time and Erin Hunter captained for the first time.
Their opposition would be a determined Namibian side featuring several the African Indoor Champions, also preparing for their own trip to Spain. Their coach Erwin Handura, also coach of the indoor side, was determined to limit their opposition chances and set up with a very defensive game plan.
South Africa, wearing their splendid new Grays Hockey kit, looked to impress the crowd at Randburg as well as the number of people watching at home on the Shoott South Africa platform, started the better and controlled the game with a low amount of effort up front. With Namibia sitting very deep South Africa, were able to hold sustained periods of possession and were able to break up the play professionally whenever Namibia countered.
South Africa got the only goal of the game when captain Erin Hunter pounced on a goal mouth scramble after an initial shot at target was saved by the superb Petro Stoffberg in goal for the Namibians. Had it not been for some fine saves from Stoffberg the South Africans would probably have won the game more convincingly, but credit must go to Namibia for the resolute defensive display.
The teams take each other on twice on Saturday as the short series comes to an end.
Image courtesy of SA Womens Hockey Instagram Page