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SA hockey men shade Scotland in thriller


Words: Jonathan Cook | Photo: Ady Kerry

The South Africa men's hockey team won an absolute thriller 3-2 against a feisty Scotland in the teams' Investec Cup men's event's final round-robin match at London's national hockey stadium Saturday after leading 2-0 at half-time, and three-duck with 17 minutes left.

SA's goals in a match-up that was chock-a-block-full of delight at both ends came from Capetonian and captain Austin Smith's drag-flick from his side's second penalty corner, and field goals by fellow Capetonians Wade Paton - arguably the most consistent, valuable player in the team in recent times - and Pierre de Voux in the 19th and 43rd minutes respectively.

Scotland came back in stunning fashion with two goals inside four minutes thanks to a textbook Dan Coultas bullet flick from the penalty spot in the 45th and the net-buster of the Investec Cup event so far, a breathtaking deflection goal by Wei (correct spelling) Adams in the 48th. Both Scotland goals left Johannesburg-based SA keeper Rassie "Rasta" Pieterse with absolutely no chance.

Durban's combative Taine Paton was in killer form up front, leaving the beleaguered Scotland defenders chasing shadows more often than not, while there were influential performances by older brother Wade and fellow Capetonians Rhett Halkett and Lloyd "Chuck" Norris-Jones, as well as Johannesburg's Lance Louw and Taylor Dart, plus the London-based Northern Blues maestro Jonty Robinson.

The arrival of the last of SA's Commonwealth Games players, Langa, Cape Town resident Lungi Tsolekile, meant that three matches into the tournament the African champions finally had the full complement of 18 players - and most importantly seven rolling subs. The non-professional SA team - a rarity amongst the world's top nations - has been beset by players' unavoidable work and study commitments, leaving them with no chance of adequate time together prior to the Investec Cup event, in stark contrast to opponents England (especially), Ireland and Scotland.

Scotland will kick themselves for missing two of the most golden of chances in the first 15 minutes that were created through the sublime stickwork, layoffs and elusive running of the long-time Dutch-based Hoofdklasse forward Kenny Bain, who exploited the left- and right-hand baselines and channels to great effect until SA got wise to the threat and plugged the holes. Had Niall Stott's venomous first-time blast not smashed into the upright - and Gordon McIntyre's attempted goalshot a little later not been scuffed - SA might have been on the back foot almost from the get-go. That said, the lads in green and gold had more than their fair share of PCs and goalscoring opportunities from field play.

The teams meet again in Sunday's Investec Cup men's tournament bronze medal match at 10.45am SA time. SA have earned a slender psychological advantage but the third/fourth place playoff is anyone's game. To add further spice, the teams will meet on July 25 in their opening matches of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Interview with Lungi Tsolekile

Interview with Fabian Gregory