The Summer of hockey between Ireland and South Africa came to its conclusion tonight at Maties Stadium in Stellenbosch. The summer of course kicked off with an indoor hockey test series between the two nations, before the outdoor sides locked horns this week with a firm eye on the Tokyo shaped horizon speeding towards us. The two teams will play their opening games against one another on the 25 July at the Olympic games.

Ireland had won the opening two games with convincing displays, but the character of a South African will shine through brightest when our backs are against a wall. And this is the way the hosts started in the bright sun of the Western Cape.

Robyn Johnson found space down the right-hand side and fired in a cross that the Irish defence was unable to deal with. Nomnikelo Veto was the quickest to react to the loose ball and fired home on the dive past a helpless Murphy in the Irish goal. It was Veto’s second of the series and her fifth in her 15 International games so far. It was exactly the kind of start coach Robin van Ginkel would have been hoping for.

South Africa were having a fair amount of the ball in and around the Irish defensive quarter but were failing to get as many penetrations as their performance deserved and were left to pay for it in the second quarter. Ireland hit the post after a thrilling counterattack before winning a penalty corner from the same play. Although the initial slap was saved, the ball rebounded to injector Hannah Matthews, who after 145 test caps was never going to miss.

At 1-1 South Africa created a wonderful opportunity through a superb drive by Kristen Paton but her finishing was off target. Had she scored it would have been one of the goals of the summer. It was clear that Paton and Quanita Bobbs were growing in influence in the game in the third quarter which is why the timing of the Irish second would have frustrated the South Africans.

Just before the break at the end of the third quarter the South Africans needlessly gave away a penalty corner with a poor tackle. Roisin Upton showed the value of a quality drag flick as she finished superbly. The South Africans had two penalty corner opportunities to pull the game level and grab a few ranking points but were unable to breach the Irish defence and ultimately had to settle for a 2-1 defeat.

It was a clearly improved performance, but the South Africans will have their work cut out for the remainder of the Summer Series as they face Germany over three tests on 30 January, 2 February and 4 February. For Ireland its job well done and focus on further preparations.

Summer Series – SA vs. Ireland – Results

First Test – SA 0-1 Ireland
Second Test – SA 1-5 Ireland
Third Test – SA 1-2 Ireland

Image – Kim Clayton Photography – Not for Reuse