It was a perfect afternoon at Hellenic Academy School in Harare as Zimbabwe and SPAR South Africa took to the field in the first ever Indoor Hockey International match in the country. With the Pro Series Indoor launching on the same day, the crowd was full of excited youngsters and hockey lovers.
It was always going to be a historic first goal when it arrived, and the crowd did not have long to wait. Just 50 seconds in and Eloise Walter gave SPAR South Africa a lead. If they thought it was going to be a routine win, they would be very wrong. Zimbabwe took the game to SPAR South Africa with Iman Johnson being particularly impressive. Zimbabwe would pull level with their historic first ever home goal coming through their oldest player Nicola Watson.
SPAR South Africa took the lead again when skipper Cindy Hack scored from a penalty corner, it was a well worked goal through combination play with Jamie Southgate. Zimbabwe refused to lie down and threw everything they could muster and were rewarded with a punch of penalty corners. At the fifth attempt they finally converted one when Michelle Williams fired home a bullet.
The parity in the game did not last long as Edith Molikoe, making her debut for SPAR South Africa at the age of 18, produced a sublime pass that Tegan Fourie finished with a maturity that makes you forget she is still only 20! Despite a few chances for both sides the half ended 3-2.
The second half saw an improved defensive play from SPAR South Africa that limited chances for Zimbabwe, who had exerted everything in the first half and started to tire. The African champions created multiple chances but were unable to convert and were denied by some great goalkeeping by Cripstone in the second half. They also failed to finish a penalty stroke when Tegan Fourie struck the upright. At this point Zimi Shange was substituted onto the field to earn her first cap for SPAR South Africa.
The goal that looked like it was always going to come, eventually did when Robyn Johnson showed some remarkable skill in her sixth test match to score her fourth international goal. Having dealt with a superb crowd supporting the home team, a quick turf, the light element that was challenging and adapting to new players in the squad, it was job done for Lennie Botha and his team. They would have areas identified to work on, but overall will be satisfied with the result.
New International capped players Edith and Molikoe shared their thoughts after the game.
“I am so excited to be part of this historic indoor test series and to be able to wear the national colours is a huge honour.” Said Shange, while Molikoe added: “It is a privilege to be able to represent your country at any level and I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity! We will make our country proud.”
Remaining matches of the Zimbabwe Indoor Test Series
11th August (10:00) – Second Test
11th August (18:00) – Third Test
12th August (16:00) – Fourth Test
13th August (16:00) – Fifth Test