The Durban leg of the Switzerland and South Africa Indoor test series concluded in unfamiliar surroundings after the local organising committee decided to move to Ashton College to protect the quality of indoor hockey on display. Despite the logistics change, the new venue seemed to raise the game for all four teams as they produced a fantastic display of indoor hockey.
Liberated by the improvement in grip the quality of hockey on display ratcheted up a couple of gears much to the joy of the compacted crowd at the Ballito school, as well as all of those watching on the DigiTV live stream.
The BlitzStoks, powered by Tops at SPAR for this series, repeated their heroic performance from the previous night winning 4-3 again, with Keagan Robinson once again getting the match winning goal. The journey to the conclusion was slightly different this time around though. Having given the hosts an early 1-0 lead, skipper Jethro Eustice had to watch on when Yves Morard made it 1-1 in the 23rd minute with a well worked penalty corner variation.
Ignatius Malgraff made it 2-1 when he finished off a wonderful team move for the BlitzStoks capped off by a brilliant last pass by Rusten Abrahams, but that lead was again short lived as Yves Morard used control & c to copy and paste his first goal with a second and restore parity at the end of the third quarter.
The final 10-minute stanza of the game started with a frenetic pace up and down, both teams trading punches like seasoned fighters in the 12th round, essentially the hockey equivalent of a Rocky Balboa movie. Switzerland thought they had landed the knock out punch when they scored from a 34th minute penalty corner through Martin Greder. They were wrong.
The BlitzStoks fought back in a manner refreshing to see and landed their own counter punch through a wonderful piece of Lungani Gabela skill to pull level with 120 seconds of the game remaining. A 3-3 draw would probably have satisfied the South Africans, but they didn’t want to be satisfied, they wanted to be elated, full and content all at the same time and surged forward one more time to win a penalty corner. Big moments need big players and there are few who will back themselves when staring down the cauldron better than Keagan Robinson. He did not disappoint giving the hosts a 4-3 win and a 2-0 series lead. Just writing it is making me tired, although that could also be the lack of sleep from having a new-born at home.
When you think of the SPAR South Africa indoor ladies’ side the word that must come to mind is excellence. Over the past almost 36 months they have raised the bar for Indoor hockey in this country and consistently achieved beyond the expectation. They faced a Swiss side that were fully up for this game tonight and having to withstand some heavy pressure stood firmer than my first car when that truck changed lanes without looking at his blind spot. Zimi Shange was the star of the show in leading a resolute defensive line.
SPAR South Africa scored the opening goal of the game in the ninth minute when Kara Botes finished off another PC variation. Lennie Botha’s team have shown their arsenal of penalty corners to be more lethal than the football team who shares that name. Despite Switzerland knocking on the door with more regularity than I have likes on a social media post, the SPAR South Africa ladies weathered the storm before the customary double punch settled the match.
Skipper Cindy Hack made a lung busting run from the middle of the park and Robyn Johnson picked her captain out superbly for Hack to tap into an open goal. Before Switzerland had a chance to blink, they were caught out again. Wonderful pressure by Amy Greaves saw the ball turned over and an interchange between Greaves and Hack made it certain for the skipper to get another.
With the SPAR South Africa ladies striving for the kind of perfection not seen since my Matric Maths paper, they will be disappointed in letting Switzerland get a small foothold into the game in the final quarter. Nora Murer got the goal from a penalty corner that their performance deserved, but in truth it turned out to be nothing more than a consolation as the SPAR SA Indoor Ladies took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the 6-match series.
The tournament now heads to Sunningdale in Cape Town where there will be matches on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If you are not in the area you can also watch the games on the livestream by Digitv.