South Africa’s women’s team showed tremendous tenacity and potential as they went down 3-1 to powerhouses Argentina in their Hockey World League semi-finals match at the Wits Astro on Wednesday night.
The home side overcame a difficult, frantic start to take a 1-0 lead just before halftime and seemed to be getting a grip on the game against the world’s number three-ranked side and one of the favourites for the title.
But a controversial penalty stroke was awarded against South Africa and allowed Argentina to equalise, with the Champions Trophy holders then dominating the final quarter and scoring two more goals to add some gloss to a scoreline that did not reflect how valiant their opponent’s effort was.
South African coach Sheldon Rostron was not pinpointing the penalty stroke as the reason his team lost.
“I’m not blaming the stroke, although it was a momentum changer. We just need a greater understanding of how to manage those phases directly after they score. We made some silly mistakes higher up the field and we need to learn how to close out those situations, reading the game and being more street-smart,” Rostron said.
“The clock started a bit early so it was a nervous start for us. But we managed very well and started to settle in, they didn’t rattle our cages too much. Structurally, we just need better discipline in certain areas and the knowledge of how to close down certain situations, but there was good energy out there.”
Nicolene Terblanche, a standout in defence, said the South Africans had let slip the ideal opportunity for a major upset.
“We were very happy with the first half but then there were errors from our side in the second half, we should have managed that better, but we let it slip. The penalty stroke really changed the game because we were 1-0 up. We weren’t happy with it and the umpire did not give us any clear reason. Argentina just kept going from there,” Terblanche said.
So the honour of causing the upset of the day fell to Japan, who beat second-ranked England 1-0 through a field goal by Mami Karino in the 22nd minute and some heroic defending.