The South African Hockey Women were looking to kick start their Tokyo campaign with a bounce back performance against Great Britain, the defending champions on Monday evening. The two teams started the game showing a united front in taking the knee as a statement of standing against racism.
The South Africans started the game the better and went ahead as they caught a sluggish Great Britain napping. Some quick thinking from Celia Seerane created space for a shot off a penalty corner and it was fired through to an unmarked Nicole Walraven, who on her 50th test cap, gave the African champions the lead.
It was a lead they would hold until the 29th minute when Elena Rayner levelled matters after a period of sustained pressure. That goal was the perfect tonic for the Olympic champions as they emerged after the half time break and proceeded to dominate the possession and circle penetrations.
They took the lead from a penalty corner variation, where Lily Owsley deflected a loop effort over Mbande and past Marizen Marias on the post. Having held the British out for 10 minutes in the third quarter before that goal, the Africans will be disappointed to have conceded so quickly after that. The goal made it 3-1 as Laura Unsworth rocketed the ball home for a cracking finish after a defensive error opened the opportunity for her.
South Africa were having to work incredibly hard to keep the British out with Mbande, Christie, Deetlefs and co having to repel a number of attacks and defend a number of penalty corners. They managed to get to the the end of the third quarter without conceding again, but the defending champions kept getting forward and were rewarded with a fourth as Elena Rayner blasted home leaving Mbande no chance.
The South Africans defended gainfully for the final 10 minutes and showed some good character, but they will be disappointed that they were unable to convert the performance of the opening half and in particular the opening quarter into points.
The SA Hockey Women are next in action against Netherlands, the Worlds top ranked side on Wednesday at 02:30.