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