SPAR South Africa shine in defensive masterclass

The fourth indoor hockey test match in the Psi International series between Zimbabwe and SPAR South Africa took place at Hellenic Academy in Harare today. With the series already decided after SPAR South Africa won the opening three games the expected release of pressure for both sides did not materialise.

A cagey first half was highlighted by missed opportunities and a big call to disallow a Cindy Hack moment of brilliance. The goals wouldn’t come despite a few moments of brilliance and the game dissolved into a tactical battle searching for the opening.

South Africa’s best opportunities came from Cindy Hack and Robyn Johnson, both denied well by Jaime Haasbroek. Zimbabwe created their own good opportunities through Nicola Watson and Lylie Wilde, but Cheree Greyvenstein was up to the challenge.

As coach Lennie Botha rang out instructions at half time, the capacity crowd were in full voice behind the stellar performance of the hosts. An African drum playing group of fans were creating an environment that English football would be proud of.

The second half started in the same tentative way, but Zimbabwe were being pushed further and further back and the pressure eventually told when the reliable Jessica O’Connor finished a superb flick to give the South Africans the lead.

A period of pressure almost like a torrential rain pour then faced the Zimbabwean defence as possession and territory must have been nearly 80% in favour of the South Africans and Jordyn Cripstone pulled off the save of the series when a shot was flying in to the top right corner. It was a remarkable stick save that the crowd thoroughly enjoyed.

The second goal did arrive for SPAR South Africa through a wonderful piece of play by Jamie Southgate and Edith Molikoe. The goal was a nice prize for an improved performance by Southgate today. With two minutes to go Cindy Hack got her goal with a delightful reverse stick flick.

For the remaining three minutes South Africa held the possession to see out the game. It was a very professional performance to confirm the second clean sheet of the series and a 4-0 lead.

Team assistant coach Brighy Mashaba shared his thoughts on the fourth test: “We were really happy with our defensive performance, especially not making any errors in the critical areas of the pitch. We were tactically aware of our position in the game and controlled our approach and tempo at the different phases in the game. This helped us create the pressure that ultimately proved to be the difference for us.”

Series Results

1st Test – Zimbawe 2-4 SPAR South Africa
2nd Test – Zimbabwe 0-1 SPAR South Africa
3rd Test – Zimbabwe 2-6 SPAR South Africa
4th Test – Zimbabwe 0-3 SPAR South Africa

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