But coach Tony Readings says there is still a lot more to come from his charges and will be looking to use the few remaining days before their Olympic campaign kicks off to take their performances to another level.
“It was nice to get a win and score some goals so close to the tournament,” he says.
“Overall, we’re happy with the performance but we know there’s a lot more we can do to improve. The key now is to get some rest in tomorrow, then get back into it and try to make those improvements in the next four days.”
New Zealand are set to meet the world No 1 USA on August 3 in Belo Horizonte and will be buoyed by today’s result as South Africa held the defending Olympic champions to a 1-0 defeat less than three weeks ago.
“We watched that game and it was great to get a result because we knew South Africa wouldn’t be easy. But this game was more about what we could do and just refining some things. Sometimes you don’t always get the result when the performance is there but today we did so it’s a good feeling,” Readings says.
The damage was done by goal scorers Hannah Wilkinson, Amber Hearn, Annalie Longo and Sarah Gregorius, while the match was also notable for a pair of individual milestones. Veteran midfielder Kirsty Yallop made it a century of appearances for her country while defender Rebekah Stott also had further reason to celebrate after playing her 50th international.
Yallop became just the sixth New Zealander to join the 100 club and Readings is full of admiration for the Sweden-based 29-year-old, who made her debut way back in 2004.
“There’s always been a consistency around how she plays and you know what you’re going to get with Kirsty. She’s had to evolve and has played in Sweden, Australia and New Zealand – all those experiences have added to her game,” he says.
“It’s been really good to see her mature, both on and off the pitch. What you don’t she is what she does behind the scenes and that’s the bonus bit,” he adds.
“It’s really good to have another player with 100 caps and we try to keep chalking them up because, the more experience we can get these players, the better the team will be for it.”
Readings is backing Stott to eventually become part of that elite group and was pleased to welcome her back into the fold after the centre back’s recent spell on the sidelines through injury.
“It was good to have Rebekah back in and looking like she’s never been away – that was fantastic for us,” he says.
“It was also good to see Hannah Wilkinson back on the score sheet because she’s not long been back from injury and did very well today while Abby Erceg was very dependable at the back. She held the team together nicely and hardly put a foot wrong all game.”
The squad does not have long to bask in the glory of the pleasing South Africa result though and the thoughts of Readings have already turned to implementing a game plan against the States in that all-important Olympic opener.
“It’s all about our first game of the tournament now. We’ve been very focused but now we’re going to turn it up another notch again,” he says.
“We’ve covered a lot of stuff in a short space of time so now it’s about letting the information settle in and doing some finishing touches. The team is in a really good space and we’re pretty confident going into these next four days that we can make the improvements we need.”
New Zealand 4 (Hannah Wilkinson, Amber Hearn, Annalie Longo, Sarah Gregorius)
South Africa 1
HT: 2-0
New Zealand: Erin Nayler, Ria Percival (Rosie White 75’), Abby Erceg, Rebekah Stott (Meikayla Moore 60’), Ali Riley (Anna Green 60’), Katie Duncan (Kirsty Yallop 45’), Betsy Hassett, Amber Hearn (Jasmine Pereira 70’), Katie Bowen, Sarah Gregorius, Hannah Wilkinson (Annalie Longo 45’)
Rio Olympics Games schedule:
August 3 v USA (August 4, 10am NZT)
Belo Horizonte
August 6 v Colombia (August 7, 11am NZT)
Belo Horizonte
August 9 v France (August 10, 10am NZT)
Story courtesy of New Zealand Football