South Africa and Australia last met in a Junior World Cup match in 2016 at the same venue and the Jillaroos were victorious 7-0 on that occasion. There was less riding on this game though for the South Africans as two defeats meant they were no longer in the discussion for a place in the Quarterfinals.
However, the South Africans would have wanted a positive performance to give them some belief and importantly momentum ahead of their crossover game on Tuesday which would offer them the opportunity of a top 10 finish. South Africa wore their traditional home kit of green, while Australia was in their change up kit of pink that has been in use in this tournament.
It was a terrible start for the Africans going down to an early Australian goal before the team had really settled into the battle. Makayla Jones struck for Australia as she deflected home when caught unmarked at the back post. As had been the case throughout the tournament so far the South Africans competed brilliantly in the middle of the park, but the execution around the circle left the ladies in green frustrated in the opening quarter. Especially on the back of a wonderful period of pressure applied by the South Africans at the end of the quarter, where they failed to produce a shot.
It was greater frustration as Hannah Cullum-Sanders was given space in the circle early in the second quarter to run a large arch and finish with precision to double the lead. Although the South Africans continued to play competitively Australia’s danger when attacking was far greater and Morgan de Jager was forced into a good save to deny the Aussies a third. With two minutes remaining a dangerous run from Laughton won Australia the games opening penalty corner. Brilliant running from Kayla Swarts, not once but twice, denied the Aussies and they would not be able to add to the score before the half-time break, remaining 2-0.
South Africa created the best chance of the second half 7 minutes in when the dynamic duo Malikah Hamza and Ntsopa Mokoena combined. Yet somehow Bridget Laurance made a truly remarkable save to keep the sheet clean. Unfortunately for the South Africans the chance raised the tempo from the Australians, and they won a string of penalty corners. Fortunately for the South Africans the execution was below average. The quarter finished with Australia still leading 2-0.
Cullum-Sanders and Jones combined early in the final quarter and finally managed to find the third goal in their quest to end ahead of the Dutch in the pool table. In true South African fashion, they continued to fight, and Malikah Hamza won a penalty corner for the team. Cerian Fourie’s drag flick was charged down and it remained 3-0. Australia finally got a penalty corner goal, but there was a huge slice of luck to it. Germarie Speershot saved the ball on the line, but the clearance hit the back of Morgan de Jager and rebounded into the goal, 4-0.
South Africa had a late penalty corner but Speershot’s attempt was charged down. And it was Australia who completed the group stage unbeaten and will march on to the Quarter Final stage, winning 4-0
For South Africa attention will turn now to the 9-16 playoff. A victory in that came will mean a worst possible finish of 12th and a potential place in the top 10 is still up for grabs. Their opponent in that game will be the loser of the game tomorrow between Spain and Korea. The game will be at 23:15 South African time on Tuesday 5 December.