(Photo: SA Hockey / Marcel Sigg)

The men’s and women’s teams of South Africa have secured their respective places at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup 2014 in The Hague, Netherlands by becoming the continental champions of Africa.

In a pulsating final day of action at the Africa Cup for Nations in Nairobi, Kenya, the South African teams were both given huge tests, but battled through to becoming the final qualifiers for the summer showpiece.

South Africa women were given a massive scare by Ghana, being forced to fight back from a 2-0 half time deficit to eventually win 3-2 courtesy of a Tanya Britz strike two minutes from full time. The final was of the closest and arguably the most exciting in the history of the competition, with Ghana fully deserving the half time lead, but second half strikes from Celia Evans and Bernie Coston tied the match ahead of the late winner.  

“It’s a big relief, an amazing feeling to have come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and realise our dream of qualifying for the World Cup in The Netherlands next year”, said South Africa captain Marcelle Keet after the match. “It took hard work and the lesson learned is that nothing comes easy.”

The South Africa men's team were also given a real run for their money, withstanding a fierce challenge from Egypt to win the men’s final 2-0. A stunning Julian Hykes action goal in the eighth minute was embellished by Clint Panther's clincher two minutes from full-time during an emotion-charged gold medal match in which a berth in the 2014 World Cup finals event in The Netherlands was at stake.

SA should have made the game safe much earlier in the second half and their eight goal shots to two underlined a superiority against an Egyptian line-up that were nevertheless in the running right until the end.

“I am elated that we have qualified for next year’s World Cup, a lot of people think it’s easy for us to win the Africa title but it is never the case”, said South Africa captain Austin Smith, who finished as the tournament top scorer and was also named player of the tournament. I’m very proud of the guys’ discipline … our management deserve congratulations too.”

Congratulations to both South African teams on reaching next year’s Rabobank Hockey World Cup. 

Source material: SA Hockey media release