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South Africa rock Great Britain on day one of Investec London Cup hockey
South Africa produced an almost flawless performance to shock Investec London Cup hosts Great Britain on the opening day of the tournament. For more pictures see the gallery.
A re-jigged GB defence missing stalwart centre pairing of Kate Walsh and Crista Cullen seemed slow to organise. And they paid the price after five minutes when Sulette Damons picked up a bobbling ball at the top of the circle and slammed away a hard shot that keeper Beth Storry would normally expect to save.
South Africa's second was a corker - Bernadette Coston blazed a shot high past Storry whilst running at full pace into the right side of the circle. After that the rain became heavier, and particularly in the second half, the pitch more sluggish.
The visitors defended well against a side ranked eight places above them and then finally silenced the crowd with a third counter-attacking goal finished by Canterbury's Jen Wilson. A late consolation for Team GB came from a neat flat-stick reverse deflection from Susie Gilbert from a right-side cross from GB captain Helen Richardson.
GB coach Danny Kerry paid credit to South Africa for finishing well but said you had to look behind the scoreline. He said his side had worked back into the game well in the second half. "The South Africa defence dug ditches and when they had three chances, they took them well," he said.
Skipper Helen Richardson said the heavy rain had slowed down GB's fast and positve game plan. "The conditions allowed that to turn into a battle in the middle of the pitch," she said .
"It was a fantastic win for us in difficult conditions playing asgainst a very good well drilled team," said SA assistant coach Fabian Gregory. He said the side didn't create as many chances as he would have liked. "But we took them well."
The loss means GB's game against Germany at 8pm on Thursday is critical. It is the last pool game so GB will know before the game what result they need to make the semi finals on Saturday.
In squad news, Sam Quek came into the GB lineup for the tournament, replacing goalkeeper Abi Walker, to provide extra outfield cover. Kate Walsh has an infection brought on by a reaction to some tape.
Maartje Paumen (PC, PS, 49, 52)
Emily Smith (FG, 46)
World number one ranked the Netherlands overcame Australia in the tournament opener.
Coach Max Caldas said he was pleased with how his side had played with players having only returned from club duties a few days ago. He said Olympic selection was placing added pressure on the team.
"They are worrying about every pass and every trap [and] whether that idiot on the sidelines is going to pick them or not," he said.
Australian coach Adam Commens was pleased at how close a game his 7th ranked side had produced against the Dutch. "To be as close to the world number one team at the moment is a positve step for us," he said. Australia's quality of play had broken down a little under pressure from the Dutch. "We can go back and work on that," he said.