Clinical SA men’s hockey side ‘step up a gear’ to beat Canada

2008-01-15 00:00

CANADA were beaten 3-1 by South Africa in the Tri-Nations Hockey Series in humid Durban last night.

It was a heartening Test match for SA, who converted their first three penalty corners in a total of five. Canada scored from their lone PC, but they were outplayed by SA to the extent that the score could well have been 7-1 or so.

Although they created enough opportunities, the second half was nowhere near as clinical as the first for SA, who went into the changeover 3-0 up.

Central midfielder Austin Smith was a runaway man of the match in a barnstorming effort, in which he broke down Canadian attacks at will and impressed with his pace, distribution and technical skills.

SA were more patient in crafting their attacking sorties this time round, throwing the ball around the back and including crossfield overheads as they sought to unlock Canada’s defence. Here, Lloyd Madsen in particular stood out with his vision and quick, crisp passing, while his combination with Ken Forbes was noteworthy.

Hapless Canada goalkeeper Mathew Peck first felt the wrath of the SA penalty corner in the 13th minute when the excellent Ian Symons flashed a drag flick into the top-right corner. Not 10 minutes later, Symons beat Peck low to his right before Smith made it three when he flashed a drag flick past Peck with five minutes to half-time.

A disputed penalty corner 10 minutes from full-time put Canada’s Wayne Fernandes on the scoresheet as his drag flick evaded the impressive Ben Mbana in the SA goal. Just two years out of Hilton College, Mbana can be proud of his first outing in the national starting line-up.

The entire SA side stepped up a gear in this Test and coach Gregg Clarke told The Witness afterwards that the players would be justified in feeling proud of their performance.

SA meet Great Britain today at 6 pm in what should be a crackerjack Test. The 13th-ranked SA team saw their dreams of victory over Britain ruined by a 2-2 equaliser minutes from the end on Saturday.

While SA and Canada have qualified for the Olympics, Britain still have a tough qualifier in Chile in early March to negotiate.

Earlier tri-Nations results: SA 1 Canada 1; SA 2 Britain 2; Canada 1 Britain 5.

To come: SA vs Britain 6 pm today; Canada vs Britain 6 pm tomorrow.

In Western Cape (women): Netherlands U21 3 Ireland 1. today: Spar SA vs Ireland.

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