It’s men’s semi-final time Saturday afternoon in the Greenfields Africa Hockey Championships at Randburg Hockey Stadium – and two pulsating contests are in store. While South Africa’s national men’s team enjoyed a rest day Friday, the SA women played the late game and beat Tanzania 27-0 after leading 8-0 at half-time. Tanzania goalkeeper Sophia Rajabu made a host of remarkable saves but SA’s dominance was such that a flood was inevitable.
Capitalising on the extra space and time afforded to a markedly stronger opponent, some of South Africa’s build-up and goalshots were breath-taking in their execution. SA scored through Lilian Du Plessis (6), Bernie Coston (3), Candice Manuel, Toni Marks (3), Tanya Britz, Dirkie Chamberlain (7), Jade Mayne (2), Shelley Russell (2), Tarryn Bright and Illse Davids.
The SA men, first in Pool A, face Pool B runners-up Kenya at 16:30 in Saturday’s second semi-final while in the first semi-final at 14:00 it’s Pool B winners Egypt against Pool A runners-up Ghana. Kenya have talented players, but the overall cohesion of the men in green and gold – and their high-octane brand of attacking hockey – is likely to prove too much to contain. The hugely impressive Egypt line-up come up against a skilful, physical Ghana team and this could develop into a no-holds-barred battle with emotions at fever pitch.
It certainly has the potential to explode and the umpires will have to be on top of transgressions from the outset. The respective winners earn a berth in Sunday’s 16:30 final and a shot at the continent’s premier prize. The women’s competition is played on a round-robin format and does not feature a final.
However, Sunday’s 11:30 women’s match between South Africa and Ghana is, in effect, a final. A victory earns three log points. Ghana, on 13 points, must beat SA (15 points) in order to book a ticket to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. It’s that simple – and that difficult.
Men and women, the stage is set for a dramatic weekend.
Photo credit: Marcel Sigg