The fourth test of the inaugural indoor hockey test series between SPAR South Africa and Ireland Indoor Hockey took place at the Bellville Velodrome in the Western Cape last night. The South Africans headed into the game on the back of a 17-match unbeaten run stretching back to January and led the series 3-0. They were expecting a backlash from the Irish in game four in front of about 2000 spectators.
Although Ireland were probably hoping to strike early, they were met by a wave of South African attack that was not of the surfable variety. The hosts hit the post early on from a penalty corner as Cindy Hack deflected Jess Lardant’s pass. They did not have to wait long to take the lead though. Amy Greaves fired the ball through to Hack, who with her back to goal spun and fired home with the instinctive feel of someone who is playing in her 98thtest match.
Hack may be the dream of many young players in the crowd, but she turned into a nightmare for the Irish defence. South Africa moved a ball up field quickly to Hack, she found a pocket of space and surged forward before the inch perfect pass to Robyn Johnson. Johnson herself then squared a ball timed more perfectly than AB de Villiers for Hack to walk into the goal and give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
There was an element of fortune for South Africa in the second quarter when Eloise Walters scored to make it 3-0. The shot from Walters, returning from a cruciate ligament injury in her knee, was powerful and it caused the error from O’Brien in deflecting it into her own net. There was no fortune for South Africa in the fourth goal. 10 seconds after Jess Lardant was given a green card, Amy Greaves produced another sublime ball through which Hack ran onto and slid into the bottom left corner to seal her hat-trick and a 4-0 half time lead.
The South Africans refused to slow down though and in the third quarter added another 2 goals and more gloss to the score line. Jess Lardant got her first of the series from a 24thminute penalty corner, showing just how good the South African options at PC time are. Kara Botes added her own goal late in the quarter to make it 6-0 to the hosts.
The Irish girls would give their travelling fans as well as those watching on the live stream something to smile at in the final quarter. Orla Patton took a quick free hit, caught the South Africans napping and a flat ball across found Amy Benson who made no mistake for her first ever Indoor International Goal. Although it turned out to be nothing more than a consolation there was a lot of delight for the European team as the goal went in.
SPAR Test Series
Durban – Danville Park Girls High School
First Test – Wednesday 4 December – South Africa 2-1 Ireland
Second Test – Thursday 5 December – South Africa 2-1 Ireland
Cape Town – Bellville Velodrome
Third Test – Saturday 7 December – South Africa 5-0 Ireland
Fourth Test – Sunday 8 December – South Africa 6-1 Ireland
Fifth Test – Tuesday 10 December – 10:20
Sixth Test – Tuesday 10 December – 19:00