Germany overcame the South African women's team 3-0 in the second test of the SPAR Challenge Series played at Stellenbosch University on Friday night. With only one match to play, the win secures the test series for the visitors after their 4-1 win on Thursday night.
The score line may suggest otherwise but it was not a walk in the park for the world's third ranked side that was made to work hard for their victory by a markedly improved South African outfit.
Head coach of the SPAR Proteas, Jenny King was far from satisfied with her team's defensive play in the first encounter and it was obvious that she and her technical team which includes assistant coach Lindsey Wright did their homework for the second match. 'The tempo and the toughness of our defending were much better,' said King. 'We did not really work on defensive patterns but more on the mental side of defending. We've learnt a lot from the Germans.'
The Germans led 1-0 at halftime through veteran Natascha Keller who found herself with ample space in the circle, she calmly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Mariette Rix. Granted, the Germans created far more scoring opportunities, but the host’s defence marshaled by a superb Cindy Brown held tight and this coupled with some outstanding saves from Rix.
The local lasses had their best chance in the 26th minute after Vida Ryan centered a superb cross to find an unmarked Shelley Russel. Unfortunately Russell’s valiant diving back stick effort breezed past the upright.
A conscious substitution in the second half by King possibly proved a saving grace for the home side, 18-year old Hanli Hattingh, on debut, replaced the experienced Rix. And what an inspired substitution it proved to be. Hattingh made some remarkable saves and when she was eventually beaten in the 58th minute it was a let down by her defenders when the Germans conjured up a penalty corner variation.
'Ja, Hanli had a blinder,' added King. 'It's her first cap and at only 18 years old she is going to be outstanding.' Hattingh can also be excused from the visitor’s third goal which was quite magically executed. Theirs was a dazzling run from the 300-plus capped Keller from outside her opponent’s 22 who laid-off to an unmarked Hannah Kruger who had time to pick her spot.
While German coach, Michi Behrmann was happy with the result he was slightly disappointed with his team's performance. 'It was not as good as Thursday's game for both sides. We were mentally slow but we were put under a lot of pressure from their defense.'
The final test is to be played on Saturday afternoon (15:00).
Source: BLD / South African Hockey Association