Captain Fantastic inspires determined South Africa men to victory
South Africa's new sponsors Mugg & Bean must be delighted that the team is sitting on two wins out of two under the new banner. Superb South Africa men’s hockey team captain Austin Smith netted a hat-trick of penalty corners for the lads in green and gold to win a gripping second Test 3-1 at University of North West Hockey Centre in Potchefstroom Saturday after the scores had been locked 1-1 at half-time.
Smith was the heart of his team’s hard-fought win as he worked tirelessly from an unusually deep position to inspire his team to an unbeatable 2-0 lead in this four-Test series, this after South Africa had won the thrilling first Test 2-1 on Thursday evening.
The third Test takes place at 3 pm Sunday in Potchefstroom with the fourth Test at 7 pm in Randburg on Tuesday.
Smith’s first goal came in the 34th minute - a minute before half-time - for SA to draw level 1-1 at the changeover, this after Malaysia’s Faizal Saari had opened the scoring with a potent PC drag-flick in the 15th minute.
Smith’s second and third PC strikes came in the 54th and 70th minutes, the latter on full-time.
The PCs were shared 5-5 in a match that could have gone either way, but SA made their chances count. Indeed, SA had six PCs in the first Test without success and turned that disappointing statistic around with a 60% strike rate in the second encounter – an outstanding return.
SA went into the match without number one goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse (rested); vice-captain Rhett Halkett and fellow defender Ashlin Freddy – both missing their second consecutive Test matches due to injury; Tim Drummond (injured); while one of the first Test’s standout players, Clinton Panther (university exam) was replaced by his older brother, Brandon Panther, a new cap. Another Test debutant was striker Matt Botha while Taylor Dart won his second cap after coming into the first Test team just before the warm-up after medical advice had forced the last-minute withdrawal of Freddy.
The Malaysia line-up remained much the same.
For Malaysia, the likes of Nabil Fiqri, Faiz Helmi as well as the irrepressible Saari were thorns in the side of the SA defenders at various stages of the match and it must be said that the final scoreline was somewhat flattering. Smith admitted as much after the match while Malaysia head coach Paul Revington said the difference was that SA took their chances.
There was much “chat” between the teams and player after player was banished to the sin-bin after a slew of heavy tackles, body checks and sundry other misdemeanours, SA down to nine men at one stage.
All the SA players stood out in this match at one stage or another, and the victory was a triumph of true grit in the face of a highly motivated opponent.
SOUTH AFRICA – Goalkeepers: Gowan Jones (KZN Coastal Raiders), Jacque le Roux (Western Province). Defenders: Francois Pretorius (Northern Blues), Ricky West (SG), Lance Louw (SG), Jethro Eustice (SG). Midfielders: Austin Smith (WP, capt), Jonty Robinson (NB), Wade Paton (KCR), Taine Paton (KCR), Nic Gonsalves (SG), Taylor Dart (SG). Strikers: Julian Hykes (SG), Craig Haley (WP), Matt Botha (WP), Pierre de Voux (WP), Miguel da Graca (SG), Brandon Panther.
MALAYSIA - Goalkeepers: Kairulnizam Ibrahim, Roslan Jamaluddin. Defenders: Ahmad Kazamirul, Azlan Misron, Baljit Singh, Sukri Mutalib, Izad Hakimi, Razie Rahim. Midfielders: Faiz Helmi, Meor Muhamad Azuan, Fitri Saari, Shahrun Nabil, Azammi Adabi, Marhan Jalil, Nabil Fiqri Mohamed Noor. Strikers: Chua Boon Huat, Faizal Saari, Izwan Firdaus, Firhan Ashaari, Tengku Ahmad Tajudin.
SA Hockey Association media release