In the space of 12 months the SPAR South African women’s team have drawn a series with the world number five, beaten the world number 7 twice and now shared a series away from home with the World number 6. This result comes on the back of a superb and swashbuckling performance in a 3-1 win in the final test match of the series.

It wasn’t all easy going for the African’s who found themselves trailing to a Monika Polewczak goal in the 12th minute but managed to restore parity when Edith Molikoe scored her first of the series just three minutes later. SPAR South Africa then took the lead in the third quarter when Edith’s fellow 19-year-old Kayla de Waal added to her collection of International Indoor Hockey goals.

With Poland desperately trying to get the goal that would seal the series the South Africans were resolute in defence with Kara Botes, Jamie Southgate, Jess O’Connor and Jess Lardant being incredibly impressive throughout the game. With that defensive stability the stage was set for one more goal for the South Africans. The goal came from the captain and it was a milestone goal. The goal for Hack was her 100th International Indoor Hockey in just her 105th test match.

The final score was a 3-1 win for the South Africans meaning that the series was shared and the 16th ranked South Africans added another remarkable feather into their cap.

Cindy Hack was awarded the South African MVP while Kara Botes, Cindy Hack, Kayla de Waal and Robyn Johnson all scored two goals in the series for the South Africans.

It was a memorable series for the South Africans with Jess O’Connor and Lennie Botha reaching their 100th caps, a shared series and magic moments. Special thanks to Tayla Sportswear for the kit and of course to SPAR who have made everything possible for the South African Women’s Indoor Hockey team over the past 7 years.

The South Africans will now look towards the African Cup scheduled to take place around June this year with a likely home series to take place before that. All eyes will soon start switching to FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup 2021.

SPAR South Africa vs. Poland Indoor Hockey Series

1st Test – 9 January – Poland 2-0 SPAR South Africa
2nd Test – 10 January – Poland 1-1 SPAR South Africa
3rd Test – 10 January – Poland 4-3 SPAR South Africa
4th Test – 11 January – Poland 1-3 SPAR South Africa
5th Test – 12 January – Poland 1-3 SPAR South Africa

 

The fourth test of the Indoor Hockey Test series between Poland and South Africa moved to Poznan in front of a packed crowd as the hosts looked to seal the series. SPAR South Africa were looking to keep the series alive ahead of the final test in Rogowo on Sunday.

The South Africans had showed improvements in the second and third test against a country they have never beaten before but were left to rue missed opportunities. Today the Africans were determined to take the opportunity to make a statement for the world of indoor hockey to pay attention to.

The game was live streamed, the only match of the series, so with the thought of their friends, fans and family watching at home the South Africans started with the intensity that makes them dangerous. Amy Greaves effected a turnover and stormed forward, she fed the ball to Cindy Hack who found Robyn Johnson open in the D. Johnson picked up the ball with her back to goal had a lot to do, but her turn and space creation gave her the opportunity which she buried for her 20th International Indoor goal.

South Africa did not slow down and got the second that their dominance deserved on the break of the interval. South Africa pressured the Polish defence, who probably should have done better, and when the ball popped out in the D, Cindy Hack was never gonna miss. 2-0.

Oriana Bratkowska breathed life back into the Polish challenge with a goal in the 16th minute when she converted from a penalty corner. But that was the last of the scoring until the final quarter.

With Poland pushing for an equaliser the SPAR South Africa Women produced the best play of the game. Jess Lardant played the textbook 1-2 with her captain Cindy Hack before producing a sublime square ball for Kayla de Wall to finish and keep the series alive.

The series headed to Rogowo for the final game on Sunday with Poland leading 2-1.

SPAR South Africa vs. Poland Indoor Hockey Series (Times are in Poland)

1st Test – 9 January – Poland 2-0 SPAR South Africa
2nd Test – 10 January – Poland 1-1 SPAR South Africa
3rd Test – 10 January – Poland 4-3 SPAR South Africa
4th Test – 11 January – Poland 1-3 SPAR South Africa
5th Test – 12 January – 15:00

 

 

The third test between Poland and SPAR South Africa took place in Rogowa last night. Poland led the five-match series 1-0 after two games and were up against a fired up South African side dressed in Pink for the occasion.

In a combined initiative between SPAR and the South African Women’s Indoor Hockey team, the team will wear pink on certain fixtures in standing up for No Violence against Women and Children. This was started in the home series against Ireland in a match South Africa won 6-2. SPAR have also pledged that each time the team wears the pink kit in a series they will sponsor an amount of R4000 as well as R100 per goal scored to the charity supported by the SA Women’s Indoor Hockey team. For last nights game the team chose the Open-Door Crisis Care Centre

The Open-Door Crisis Care Centre (The Open Door) is a non-profit organization established by Thora Mansfield in 1997 at the request of the local South African Police, to assist women and children who were victims of rape and domestic violence.  Today they are regarded as a lead organisation in the country, lobbying for better service provision for victims of all forms of crime both in our homes, communities and in the workplace.  From small beginnings their “one stop crisis care centre” has reached over 400 000 men, women and children through direct and indirect services.  

South Africa opened the game in incredible fighting mood and found themselves 2-0 up with Kara Botes and Amy Greaves giving the visitors a 2-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Unfortunately, the hosts fought back with Amelia Katerla pegging the Africans back before goal-scoring machine Paulina Reder made it 2-2 at the half time interval.

The third quarter saw a lot of action but mostly from the umpires as four green cards and one yellow were shared between the two sides, but no goals were scored setting up a frenetic final quarter. The SPAR South Africa ladies must have thought they had done enough to win it when Kara Botes scored with three minutes remaining, but Poland showed their pedigree with Reder equalising from an error before with less than 15 seconds on the clock Magdalena Zagajska stole the victory for the Europeans.

Although the result will be disappointing the South Africans have clearly shown that the gap between the European Elite of the Indoor Hockey game and themselves is as small as it has ever been.

SPAR South Africa vs. Poland Indoor Hockey Series (Times are in Poland)

1st Test – 9 January – Poland 2-0 SPAR South Africa
2nd Test – 10 January – Poland 1-1 SPAR South Africa
3rd Test – 10 January – Poland 4-3 SPAR South Africa
4th Test – 11 January – 18:00
5th Test – 12 January – 15:00

 

The SPAR South African side took on the Polish Indoor Hockey team for the second test in Rogowo this morning. The game marked the 100th cap for Jessica O’Connor joining her skipper in the centurion club. Incredibly O’Connor has played every single test match since her debut against Namibia on 11 April 2014, a superb statement to her fitness. Remarkably the match also marked coach Lennie Botha’s 100th in charge of the SPAR South Africa women’s side. A superb achievement for both Botha and O’Connor.

For much of those 100 test matches, Botha’s SPAR South Africa could be categorized as built around a solid defence. Conceding only 185 goals across 100 test matches. One of the centre pieces to that defensive stability is the superb defensive work of Jess O’Connor. Their 100th test match would be highlighting the same.

A tactical arm wrestle finally gave its first inches in the 11th minute when Robyn Johnson converted a wonderful team effort that went through almost every player on the field. The South Africans have shown countless times in the past 24 months that the most dangerous time on a field is just after a goal as they regularly give the opponents the double punch. But today while the echoes of their celebration were still reverberating in the venue Poland pulled one back once again through the impressive Paulina Reeder.

Although the South Africans were denied a penalty stroke somewhat contentiously, the game ended in a 1—1 draw with the visitors incredibly impressive. Just 24 hours after they had been defeated 2-0 South Africa were unlucky to only draw. Something that sits well with the team.

Captain Cindy Hack paid tribute to Botha and O’Connor: “It’s a wonderful achievement for both Jessica and Lennie and we are delighted that we could give them the performance that their milestone deserved. We came here with the goal of competing with one of the best indoor hockey nations in the world and we are doing that exactly!”

SPAR South Africa vs. Poland Indoor Hockey Series (Times are in Poland)

1st Test – 9 January – Poland 2-0 SPAR South Africa
2nd Test – 10 January – Poland 1-1 SPAR South Africa
3rd Test – 10 January – 19:00
4th Test – 11 January – 18:00
5th Test – 12 January – 15:00

 

The positivity around the SPAR South Africa side is so high right now that as the 16th ranked nation in the world travelled to play the World Number 6 side in their own back yard expectation was high. The South Africans completed a fantastic 2019 winning 22 of 28 test matches including series victories against Ireland and Switzerland and sharing a series with the Czech Republic side in Prague.

Poland finished third at the 2014 Euro Hockey Indoor Championship as well as losing to eventual champions Germany in the 2018 Indoor World Cup Quarter-Final. They are using the series to prepare for their upcoming EuroHockey Indoor Championship in Croatia taking place at the end of the month.

This was the first meeting between the two nations since Poland’s 5-1 win against SPAR South Africa at the 2015 Indoor Hockey World Cup. Only four players from the South African side that day are in the current squad including captain Cindy Hack, Jess O’Connor, Kara Botes and Amy Greaves (although Greaves did not play that game). Poland themselves also featured four players from that encounter with Dominika Nowicka, Amelia Katara, Anna Gabara and Paula Slawinska all reprising their roles from 2015.

Its no surprise that the encounter was a tactically tense affair, with the South Africans having developed remarkably since that game where they 2-0 down at half time. This time round it was 0-0 at the break with both teams having opportunities to break the scoring, but with defensive brilliance and rusty finishing both teams missed out. Poland were a little bit brighter coming off a series victory against Belarus last week, and ultimately, they struck first blood through 21-year-old Paulina Reder. She later, in the final 30 seconds of the game, made it 2-0 to add a little bit of gloss onto a score line.

Coach Lennie Botha had been glowing in his praise of the hosts in terms of the hospitability and the venue and was equally humble in defeat. “We had a lot of chances, but this is a great developmental opportunity for the youngsters. We showed tonight that we can compete, and we aim to do that consistently over the course of the series. We need to remove the errors and have a bit more composure. I’m proud of the effort of the team and of course supremely grateful to SPAR for supporting us in doing this.”

SPAR South Africa vs. Poland Indoor Hockey Series (Times are in Poland)

1st Test – 9 January – Poland 2-0 SPAR South Africa
2nd Test – 10 January – 11:00
3rd Test – 10 January – 19:00
4th Test – 11 January – 18:00
5th Test – 12 January – 15:00

 

 

Looking back at the 2019 calendar year the SPAR South African Indoor Hockey management team will be delighted. The year started off with the historic series victory in Switzerland and ended with captain Cindy Hack’s 100th game in front of a capacity crowd in Cape Town. They played a record breaking 28 test matches in the year, winning 22 and drawing three. Instead of sitting back, they are at it straight away in 2020 as they headed to Poland today for a five-match series.

Poland are currently ranked 6th in the world indoor hockey rankings and will be using this series to prepare for the 24-26th January where they will be competing in the EuroHockey Indoor Championship II in Croatia. Maciej Wrzesinski, the head coach of Poland, has used the opportunity to give debuts to several younger players and inspirational skipper Marlena Rybacha is unavailable for the series. They do however have Dominika Nowicka and Amelia Katerla in their ranks, both players having played more than 50 times for their country.

For SPAR South Africa, their remarkable run of form since the disappointment of the 2017 African Indoor Hockey Cup has been nothing short of remarkable. In that time the South Africans have gone to Croatia and won the Croatian Cup, beaten Namibia, Zimbabwe, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Ireland in test series. They have scored 276 goals in that time conceding only 62. Their programme that has been superbly supported by SPAR has led to the Africans showing the world just how good they are and exposing a host players to the pressures of Indoor Hockey.

In the South African ranks the experience is no longer limited to Jessica O’Connor (98 tests caps) and Cindy Hack (100 test caps). Kara Botes, a current dual international, and Amy Greaves have more than 50 caps, while the likes of Jamie Southgate, Cheree Greyvenstein, Zimi Shange and Robyn Johnson all have more than 30 games for the national team. Despite the plethora of experience in the squad, the average age of the squad though remains 25.09 remarkably.

The series against will also see Lennie Botha lead the SPAR South Africa women for the 100th time, a remarkable achievement and the first for an African Indoor Hockey coach. Lennie also previously coached the SA Indoor Hockey Men for just more than 20 games so stands as one o the most experienced coaches in International Indoor Hockey.

There will be daily updates on SAhockey.co.za, but the series is not being streamed.

SPAR South Africa vs. Poland Indoor Hockey Series

1st Test – 9 January – 19:00
2nd Test – 10 January – 11:00
3rd Test – 10 January – 19:00
4th Test – 11 January – 18:00
5th Test – 12 January – 15:00

 

The Sixth and final test of the SPAR Indoor Series between South Africa and Ireland was played tonight at the Bellville Velodrome. The two teams who have fought out a fantastic series over 5 days and two provinces renewed rivalries for one last time.  The SPAR South Africa team were all dressed in pink to as in conjunction with SPAR they created an initiative to stand together against gender-based violence. The 10 December also marked the final day of the United Nations 16 Days of Activism, with gender-based violence the focus for 2019.

Ahead of the game there was a presentation to the SPAR South Africa captain Cindy Hack who became the first African Hockey player to reach the 100 caps milestone.  She received a commemorative trophy from Marissa Langeni, CEO of SA Hockey, and some Proteas from her mother who was wearing a C100 shirt.

The game was played in front of a vociferous crowd at the Bellville Velodrome with the Pro Series National finals taking place at the same time and approximately 2000 people were in attendance for the historic night.

Although the night was all about Cindy Hack and her historic milestone, it was Kayla de Waal who stole the show with her own hat-trick, the third for SPAR South Africa in the series. What is so thrilling was that this was in front of her home crowd in just her second international series for South Africa. The future is bright.

South Africa had earlier opened the scoring through Amy Greaves after a fantastic bit of team play before de Waal got in on the action. Robyn Johnson would also add her fourth of the series before the biggest cheer on the night was reserved for Hack who netted South Africa’s final goal.

For Ireland they got two consolation goals with Sophie Barnwell finishing off a good team move and Amy Benson showing her goalscoring credentials with her fourth of the series and Irelands second of the game. Ultimately the South Africans were too good for their European opponents and turn their eye to their Poland tour with a current 20 match unbeaten run under their belt. Their 2019 record will read as played 28, won 22, drew 3 and lost 3.

SPAR Test Series

Durban – Danville Park Girls High School
First Test - Wednesday 4 December – South Africa 2-1 Ireland
Second Test – Thursday 5 December – South Africa 2-1 Ireland

Cape Town – Bellville Velodrome
Third Test – Saturday 7 December – South Africa 5-0 Ireland
Fourth Test – Sunday 8 December – South Africa 6-1 Ireland
Fifth Test – Tuesday 10 December – South Africa 4-2 Ireland
Sixth Test – Tuesday 10 December – South Africa 6-2 Ireland

In a combined initiative between SPAR and the South African Women’s Indoor Hockey team, the team will wear pink tonight (10 December 2019) in the final test against Ireland Indoor Hockey at the Bellville Velodrome. The 10 December is the final day of the 16 days of activism for No Violence against Women and Children and it is this same initiative that the team, along with title sponsor SPAR will be supporting.

Graham O’Connor, the CEO of SPAR Group Ltd, shared his thoughts:

“SPAR is very proud of its values of ‘Family, Passion and Entrepreneurship’. We are also very conscious of the need to be courageous in living by our values. To this end, we join the growing voices in our society, who have called on our President and all leaders in our country to take cognisance of and to act on the ever-increasing levels of gender-based violence in our country.

We also acknowledge that the term ‘violence against women and children’ is a passive construction with no active agent in the sentence. This assumes that bad things just ‘happen’ to women and children. We need to recognise that the silent active agent in the sentence is ‘men’. While not all men abuse women and children, we need to acknowledge that the abuse doesn’t just happen, and that it is generally perpetrated by men.

As the CEO of The SPAR Group Ltd, I would like to offer my and my organisation’s sincere support for the victims of gender-based violence and to their respective loved ones who are impacted by this violence, and I commit myself and my organisation to be part of working towards a practical solution.

Together with the SA Women’s indoor Hockey team, we are making our stand to say enough is enough. We encourage all fans of the team to do the same”

South African Hockey CEO, Marissa Langeni, echoed the sentiments of O'Connor above:

"We as the South African Hockey community are saying, enough is enough, we cannot stand by during this national crises and be silent about gender  based violence.  We stand in solidariity with fellow South Africans and pledge our support to stopping this scourge."

SPAR have also pledged that each time the team wears the pink kit in a series they will sponsor an amount of R4000 as well as R100 per goal scored to the charity supported by the SA Women’s Indoor Hockey team. 

The match takes place at 19:00 tonight and will be live streamed on Digitv.co.za

 

The fifth test match of the Indoor Hockey International Series between SPAR South Africa and Ireland Indoor Hockey took place at the Belville Velodrome this morning. Being the only morning match of the series offered its own challenges for the two teams, but it promised to still be a good test match.

After a superb defensive block of the opening South African Penalty corner, Ireland created their first chance of the game, but Orla Patton ran out of space before setting up the finish. The opening five minutes produced few chances as both teams were tentatively working their way into the game. The Ireland press was noticeably working together as a unit more efficiently than in the previous games. A tactical first quarter ultimately ended with the score 0-0, a fairly uncommon occurrence in Indoor Hockey.

The second quarter began in much the same way with sustained periods of possession bur very few goal scoring opportunities, but with four minutes remaining in the quarter the SA ladies won a penalty corner. Although the initial attempt was charged down by Orla Patton, the retake was expertly finished by Kara Botes to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. Botes and Johnson both had chances to make it 2-0 but were unable to find the back of the net as the Irish stood resolutely and the score remained that way at the half-time interlude.

The second half story seemed to be mimicking the first but at 5 minutes SA won a penalty corner and a slip to Jess Lardant looked destined for the net but for a timely intervention from Niamh Small. Kate McKenna then set up Sophie Barnwell on the break, but her touch was a bit too heavy and the chance was gone.  South Africa then created a chance for Kayla de Waal, but O’Brien denied her but gave away the PC. The resultant PC struck McKenna on the body, but with the ball going wide a PC call was given. South Africa made no mistake with this one as Botes fired in low and hard. 2-0 at the end of the third quarter.

In the final quarter Ireland looked to be creating their best break of the game but Kara Botes first broke the attack down before surging up the other end and converting her hat-trick with her first field goal of the series. Almost immediately from the start it was Ireland who created the next attack and Amy Benson finished pass Greyvenstein expertly for her first International Indoor Hockey goal. Jess O’Connor was next to deny an attack from Ireland with a wonderfully executed tackle before Robyn Johnson fired wide from a great Amy Greaves pass.

With three minutes remaining Ireland withdrew their keeper and SPAR South Africa immediately took advantage of it. Cindy Hack showed incredible hands to get through and teed it up for Robyn Johnson to finish into an empty net. The move did however pay dividends for Ireland when Amy Benson got her second of the game and of her International Indoor career.

The final score – SPAR South Africa 4-2 Ireland. The two teams take each other on again tonight at the Bellville Velodrome and that match will be streamed live on Digitv.co.za.

SPAR Test Series

Durban – Danville Park Girls High School
First Test - Wednesday 4 December – South Africa 2-1 Ireland
Second Test – Thursday 5 December – South Africa 2-1 Ireland

Cape Town – Bellville Velodrome
Third Test – Saturday 7 December – South Africa 5-0 Ireland
Fourth Test – Sunday 8 December – South Africa 6-1 Ireland
Fifth Test – Tuesday 10 December – South Africa 4-2 Ireland
Sixth Test – Tuesday 10 December – 19:00

The fourth test of the inaugural indoor hockey test series between SPAR South Africa and Ireland Indoor Hockey took place at the Bellville Velodrome in the Western Cape last night. The South Africans headed into the game on the back of a 17-match unbeaten run stretching back to January and led the series 3-0. They were expecting a backlash from the Irish in game four in front of about 2000 spectators.

Although Ireland were probably hoping to strike early, they were met by a wave of South African attack that was not of the surfable variety. The hosts hit the post early on from a penalty corner as Cindy Hack deflected Jess Lardant’s pass. They did not have to wait long to take the lead though. Amy Greaves fired the ball through to Hack, who with her back to goal spun and fired home with the instinctive feel of someone who is playing in her 98th test match.

Hack may be the dream of many young players in the crowd, but she turned into a nightmare for the Irish defence. South Africa moved a ball up field quickly to Hack, she found a pocket of space and surged forward before the inch perfect pass to Robyn Johnson. Johnson herself then squared a ball timed more perfectly than AB de Villiers for Hack to walk into the goal and give the hosts a 2-0 lead.

There was an element of fortune for South Africa in the second quarter when Eloise Walters scored to make it 3-0. The shot from Walters, returning from a cruciate ligament injury in her knee, was powerful and it caused the error from O’Brien in deflecting it into her own net. There was no fortune for South Africa in the fourth goal. 10 seconds after Jess Lardant was given a green card, Amy Greaves produced another sublime ball through which Hack ran onto and slid into the bottom left corner to seal her hat-trick and a 4-0 half time lead.

The South Africans refused to slow down though and in the third quarter added another 2 goals and more gloss to the score line. Jess Lardant got her first of the series from a 24th minute penalty corner, showing just how good the South African options at PC time are. Kara Botes added her own goal late in the quarter to make it 6-0 to the hosts.

The Irish girls would give their travelling fans as well as those watching on the live stream something to smile at in the final quarter. Orla Patton took a quick free hit, caught the South Africans napping and a flat ball across found Amy Benson who made no mistake for her first ever Indoor International Goal. Although it turned out to be nothing more than a consolation there was a lot of delight for the European team as the goal went in.

SPAR Test Series

Durban – Danville Park Girls High School
First Test - Wednesday 4 December – South Africa 2-1 Ireland
Second Test – Thursday 5 December – South Africa 2-1 Ireland

Cape Town – Bellville Velodrome
Third Test – Saturday 7 December – South Africa 5-0 Ireland
Fourth Test – Sunday 8 December – South Africa 6-1 Ireland
Fifth Test – Tuesday 10 December – 10:20
Sixth Test – Tuesday 10 December – 19:00