Thirty-two teams around South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe played their hearts out.
Over the past 18 years, the St Mary’s Investec Hockey Festival has consistently kept us on the edge of our seats and no different can be said about this year’s festival. The event kicked off on 6 April with 32 teams in play from all around South Africa, as well as Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Perennial winners C&N Sek. Meisieskool Oranje, St Marys’, Waverley 1st X1, St Anne’s Diocesan College and Hoerskool Waterkloof qualified through rounds one and two to compete in Sunday’s semi-finals.
The festival showpiece was the first semi-final, a pulsating affair between last year’s finalists St Mary’s and Oranje. St Mary’s went 1-0 up early in the piece after a sustained period of attack led to a penalty corner which was deflected into the net by the gutsy and impressive Rachel Bartlett. For most of the remaining 20 minutes, Oranje swept down field only to be repulsed by determined defending from St Mary’s led by 2016 SA U17 star Julia Bartlett and Georgina Roy.
With seven minutes to play a goal by Oranje was disallowed for an earlier foot offence, but shortly thereafter, Trune¢ Prinsloo scored for Oranje with a deflection on a cross from the left. The final minutes were a tense affair with St Mary’s coming closest to stealing the game on the buzzer, but the match was sent into five minutes extra time after the match finished 1-1.
A degree of caution and tired legs saw both teams take a more defensive approach to extra time and with no further goals being scored this fixture between Oranje and St Mary’s went to a penalty shoot-out for the second year in a row. Each team scored one from their three initial penalties and Oranje triumphed in the second round of the subsequent sudden death shoot-out.
The second semi-final between St Anne’s and Hoerskool Waterkloof was a more sedate affair, but no less thrilling. After goals from Anneke Kleinhans for Waterkloof and Leah Kriel for St Anne’s this match was also sent into extra-time and finally a penalty shootout. The massively talented Daniella Rhodes and her team mates Sophie McDonald and Brady Wiseman all scored their penalties to beat a determined Waterkloof 3-2 on penalties, sending St Anne’s into their first ever St Mary’s Investec Hockey Festival final.
St Anne’s, under the guidance of former national men’s player and coach Carlos Pereira, were certainly the surprise package of the festival and full value finalists.
The final was a competitive affair after St Anne’s opened the scoring through a tap in goal from Sophie McDonald after an exhilarating run down the right by Daniella Rhodes. But relentless running and pressure from the Oranje team saw them run out 3-1 winners on the night and St Mary’s Investec Festival champions for the 4th consecutive year. Stand out players at the festival for Oranje were Mia Barnard, Simone Gouws and Lizanne Jacobs, but the entire squad coached by Morne Odendaal will again set the standard for school girl hockey in South Africa in 2017.
Janet Larsen, Head of Marketing for Investec, in South Africa said, “Since our involvement in 2008 our objective has been to see more and more young women exposed to the best hockey tuition that encourages them to reach their full potential as hockey players. We value our role as enablers in the process of identification and development of hockey talent throughout this festival.”
Julia Fleming, captain of the St Mary’s, Waverley 1st XI said “We would like to thank Investec for again supporting the St Mary’s festival and giving over 550 girls from 31 schools from around the country the opportunity to play some great hockey, form friendships and make incredible memories.”