Anna Flanagan’s penalty corner goal in the 43rd minute was enough to give Australia their second win of the week, leaving South Africa searching for their first victory of this Investec World League competition.
In a see-saw encounter, both sides showed an abundance of pace, energy and no little physical presence as they slugged it out toe-to-toe like a couple of prizefighters.
The first chance of the match fell to Australia as Ashleigh Nelson burst into the D only to be met by a sprawling save from Sanani Mangisa. Australia started to build some good momentum and Georgie Parker and Casey Eastham swapped passes inside the South African 23 metre area but Parker’s cross was just behind the Australia No.4 who could not collect the ball.
Mangisa made a good diving save to her right to keep out the first Anna Flanagan penalty corner before South Africa’s No.2 made a smart stop from Parker with the rebound falling to Georgia Nanscawen who blazed the rebound over the bar.
South Africa’s main threat came from the pace and power of Shelley Russell who showed a great appetite to get into dangerous areas and often occupied two or three defenders to halt her progress.
After the break a good chance fell to Pietie Coetzee but her snap shot from the top of the D flew high and wide. At the other end, Australia forced their first penalty corner of the half. Jodie Schulz beat Mangisa but Lenise Marais picked the ball off the line.
Mangisa was called upon once again to smother from Eastham, but in the process she conceded a penalty corner. Up stepped Flanagan, the FIH World Junior Player of the Year, to beat the goalkeeper high on her stick side with an excellent drag flick.
South Africa broke forwards and Kirstin Johnson deflected a ball towards goal and almost caught Rachael Lynch off guard. Marsha Cox showed some good quick thinking to force a penalty corner, which looked like a great chance for South Africa to get the equaliser. Pietie Coetzee stepped up and beat Lynch only to see her effort cannon back off the post.
With Australia looking to protect their lead, South Africa pressed forward, Jodie Schulz met them head on with a colossal defensive effort tackling anyone and everyone, stopping every attempted through-ball and making some excellent passes to maintain possession of the ball.
South Africa will take some heart from what was arguably their best display of the competition so far. Australia will feel they have a little more left in the tank as they prepare for their quarter final on Thursday.