Candice Manuel, who scored two goals in three minutes, was the toast of South African hockey on Sunday night as she secured a thrilling 3-2 win for the national women’s side over the USA at the Wits Astro, putting the host nation into the Hockey World League quarterfinals.
Manuel, who hails from Western Province and was earning her 46th international cap, equalised in the 49th minute with a slick finish.
Two minutes later, veteran Nicolene Terblanche, who put an unhappy game behind her with a dominant final-quarter performance, found Manuel with a superb defence-splitting pass, and Manuel showed her ruthless edge by blasting a reverse-sticks shot past the feet of advancing USA goalkeeper Jackie Briggs.
There were still nine minutes remaining in the match and South Africa can take enormous credit for the way they held on to their composure and their 3-2 lead under immense pressure from the sixth-ranked side in the closing stages.
“The challenge of knowing we must win really got the hearts firing and the energy was way up. This team seems to thrive on these moments, they showed great composure to come out with the win and there’s a lot of emotion now,” coach Sheldon Rostron said.
South Africa can now look forward to a quarterfinal against world number seven Germany on Tuesday and, if they can play like they did on Sunday, another upset is not beyond them.
The home side showed their intent from the outset as they dominated the first quarter, but still found themselves 1-0 down as a rapid counter-attack from halfway by the USA led to a goal by captain Melissa Gonzalez.
But it was all change in the third quarter as the USA turned the screw and claimed a 2-1 lead.
Some slack marking saw Katelyn Ginolfi free in space and she ran into the circle and fired off a shot, which was deflected into goal by Jill Witmer.
It had been all USA in the third quarter, but the South Africans showed tremendous determination to fight back and get the vital victory.
“These moments are what we live for, to have the BMT to capitalise on our chances,” Manuel said. “We gave our all, it’s why we spend hours training. It just seems to be a South African trait that we shine in these moments. I still can’t let go of this phenomenal feeling, my head is everywhere!”
“Candice has a phenomemal ability to score goals, this is why we select her, and we brought her into play much better today in terms of our movement and the midfield service,” Rostron said.