For the fourth time in succession the SPAR KZN Raiders are the champions of women’s indoor hockey in South Africa. They earned the title through a show of supreme dominance throughout the week and although they were gainfully tested in the final against Pietie Coetzee’s Southern Gauteng, the weight of pressure paid off and earned the team the gold.
They did not have it all their own way as Calvin “Chicken” Price’s team were asked some difficult questions by Southern Gauteng. They were asked to stop a hard-working Lilian du Plessis, a goal hungry ex-Raider Kara Botes, a new international star Alex Kavanagh and to find a way past goalkeeper extraordinaire Namibian Petro Stoffberg. For much of the opening half those questions were asked, but on the verge of half-time they finally found an answer. A beautiful team move involving Jessica O’Connor, Tegan Fourie and Shelley Higgo saw the ball worked through to Kelly Reed and the South African ace fired the defending champions into the lead.
Karen Bowyer, the Mynah promoted to the Raiders on the back of Botes move to Johannesburg, was then the benefactor of a rare error from Stoffberg, who had already pulled off three or four high quality saves, and scored just her second goal of the tournament. Although that was a sucker punch for the Johannesburg ladies they refused to give up and having soaked up more pressure they pushed forward, and Ashleigh Redhead pulled a goal back. For the tactical approach to the game it was a goal well deserved and set up a tense final 9 minutes.
But this is where the Raiders showed their class. They managed the clock creating a few chances and limiting Southerns to small chances that Cheree Greyvenstein would save easily. The game was then put to bed in the 37th minute when Shelley Higgo was the benefactor of a goal mouth scramble the game was over.
Elsewhere in the tournament it was the KZN Inland women who stole a dramatic bronze medal with a penalty shootout victory over Western Province. This after equalising with 6 seconds left on the clock. The KZN Mynahs confirmed a back-to-back 5th place finish with a 4-3 win over WP Disa’s. Mpumalanga sealed their highest finish at 7. The remaining places were WP Peninsula (8th), Northern Blues (9th), Free State (10th), SG Witsies (11th) & Eastern Gauteng (12th).
The goalkeeper of the tournament was awarded to Petro Stoffberg (Southern Gauteng) and the player of the tournament was Jessica O’Connor (SPAR KZN Raiders).