Black Sticks make short work of SA
The Black Sticks women have met their first target at the Olympics.
Speaking after last night's 4-1 victory over South Africa at the Riverbank Arena, coach Mark Hager said a box could be ticked before tackling world No 2 Argentina on Friday morning (NZ time).
"We always said that if we had six or four points after the first two games we'd be happy and in with a chance," Hager said of the two wins over Australia and South Africa.
"We have three tough games coming up (Argentina, United States and Germany) but at least we have given ourselves a chance with the points we have got. We have to continue that on.
"Six points is great to have but we'd like to be nine after four games, then going into last game we might be playing for a semifinal spot. That is no mean ask against Germany, who are a quality side, but we are a chance and that is fantastic for this group."
Hager was pleased with the first half effort against South Africa, but not the second. The Black Sticks led 3-0 at the break but then appeared to tire in a feisty affair.
Captain Kayla Sharland had a major influence on the game, scoring twice and laying one on for birthday girl Charlotte Harrison.
It was hard to know what pleased Sharland more, providing one for her young team-mate on her 23th birthday or scoring two long range crackers herself.
"It was awesome to give her something to smile about on her birthday," Sharland said.
The Black Sticks had a 9-0 penalty corner advantage and the Sharland-Harrison effort came from the first, in the second minute. Sharland hit right and Harrison deflected it home.
"When I heard the call and the ball was coming to me I got a bit nervous," the birthday girl said.
"I was so happy to put it away. It was the perfect ball from Kayla so I was really lucky. It felt awesome."
Harrison predicted a small birthday celebration after the game.
"I'm going to hit the Powerades tonight. We normally get cake on our birthday so I'm hoping our manager has got a big mud cake for me."
Sharland scored her first goal on the stroke of halftime with a blistering strike from the top of the circle and then added a nerve-settler with 10 minutes to go when her reverse stick strike evaded gooalkeeper Mariette Rix.
Her first goal was only confirmed after a video referral appeal by South Africa.
The goal stood because, much to South Africa's disgust, it was ruled the ball was on the circle line not behind it.
"The full ball doesn't have to cross the line. It just has to touch the line and I believe it did and the umpire believed it did and the video ref did as well," Sharland said.
New Zealand's other goal came from Clarissa Eshuis from a penalty corner in the 21st corner. It was her first goal from a penalty corner since October.
South Africa's goal came from a penalty stroke by Pietie Coetzee in the 51st minute when it was ruled Eshuis had knocked over Jennifer Wilson. It was another marginal call on a difficult day for the officials.
Besides Sharland, the best of the Black Sticks were Anita Punt and goalkeeper Bianca Russell.