South Africa join World Cup contenders after retaining continental title
South Africa men's hockey team overcame a tough challenge from host nation Egypt to win their ninth consecutive continental championship and thus qualify for the Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup, Bhubaneswar, India 2018.
South Africa, ranked 15th in the world and Egypt, who are four ranking places below them at 19th, had dominated the tournament at Ismailia in Egypt. Both teams had won all their matches in the round robin, except their own 3-3 draw. Egypt had looked particularly sharp in front of goal as they put 13 past Nigeria in the opening game. But South Africa have a wealth of experience at international tournaments and they made this count as they eased past their continental challengers into the final, scoring 20 goals in total in their pool matches.
The final itself was a close contest, with Egypt taking the lead early in the match only to see South Africa claw back and then score with a tantalising two minutes left on the clock.
It all started well for Egypt as Ahmed Elganaini put the home side ahead in the eighth minute but South Africa brought the scores back to level when Taine Paton swooped on the ball to slam it home in the 39th minute. The game looked destined to be a shoot-out until Jethro Eustice drove home from a penalty corner with just two minutes left on the clock. A frantic last 120 seconds saw Egypt throw all they had at South Africa but in the end the more experienced side prevailed and will be on their way to Bhubaneswar next year.
This will be South Africa's six foray into the World Cup since they were re-admitted onto the international sports stage following the end of apartheid. The team has never finished higher than 10th and at the last edition – at the Hague in Netherlands in 2014 – they finished 11th. Following the disappointment of not competing at the 2016 Olympics, coach Sheldon Rostron and his squad will be looking for a good performance as they rejoin the elite at one of hockey's blue riband events.