Host nation and reigning African champions South Africa (FIH World Ranking: 15) claimed a crucial win in their bid to defend their title on Tuesday, defeating Pool A rivals Ghana (World Ranking: 41) in an exciting top-of-the-table meeting at the Greenfields African Hockey Championships 2015 in Randburg, Johannesburg.
Going into the meeting, both teams were well aware of the significance of the fixture, knowing that the result could have huge implications further down the line. The winners would likely top Pool A and in so doing avoid impressive Pool B frontrunners Egypt in Saturday afternoon’s semi-finals.
The match itself was a hugely entertaining encounter, with Ghana pushing their opponents all the way throughout.
Matthew Guise-Brown broke the deadlock in the second quarter with a penalty corner, and doubled South Africa’s lead ten minutes into the third period.
Goals from Richard Pautz and Julian Hykes sealed a 4-0 win for South Africa, putting them on firmly on course to finish top of the table and set up a semi-final meeting against the team that finishes second in Pool B.
Earlier in the day, Zimbabwe (World Ranking: 55) recorded a 19-0 win over Botswana to keep alive their hopes of landing a place in the competition semi-finals.
The result saw them move level on points in Pool A with second placed Ghana, although a massive goal-difference advantage keeps the Ghanaians in that all important semi-final spot with one round of pool matches left to play.
Matt Williams scored six times in the game, with Warwick Ullrich and Peter Trethowan both claiming four goals each.
In Pool B, Nigeria claimed a crucial 3-0 win over Tanzania (World Ranking: 72) to maintain their hopes of reaching the semi-finals, with Kish Victor (2) and Shanwilu Maraz on target.
The result leaves them second in the standings, although with their final opponents in the pool being table-toppers Egypt, holding onto that position could be a massive task.
The action at the men’s Greenfields African Hockey Championship continues on Wednesday, with the final matches in Pool B taking centre stage.
The first match of the day sees Kenya taking on Tanzania, with the Kenyans knowing that a victory would give them a fantastic chance of sealing a place in the competition semi-finals.
Pool A leaders Egypt need just a point from their match against Nigeria to confirm a semi-final berth, although such is their advantage in terms of goal difference that even defeat is seriously unlikely to deny them.
Keep track of all the action from both the men’s and women’s competitions on social media by using the #AHC2015 hashtag.
Pool A: Botswana 0, Zimbabwe 19; Ghana 0, South Africa 4.
Pool B: Tanzania 0, Nigeria 3.
Photo: ACTION PIX