SA end it on a high

2015-01-10 00:00

PERHAPS it was the presence of SA swim superstar Chad le Clos that provided the X-factor. Maybe it was the sheer will to win so evident in outstanding captain Jethro Eustice’s South Africa men’s hockey team. But whatever the case, it was the men in green and gold who trumped Austria in the fourth and final Test at Queensmead in Durban yesterday in a five-goal blockbuster.

SA’s 3-2 victory after leading 2-1 at half time came via top-class goals from Eastern Province striker Dalan Phillips (a well-taken effort in the 13th minute), a penalty corner cracker by drag flick ace Matt Guise-Brown of Northern Blues in the 15th and a stunning winner by on-song Western Province striker Keenan Horne in the 42nd. Austria scored yet more good goals through skilful captain Ben Stanzel in the 30th and Pit Rudofsky in the 40th.

As in all four Tests, SA dominated Austria and while they could have again scored more goals due to the number of excellent chances they created, this time they did enough to make certain of victory.

Making the win even more special, SA had to do without their most experienced player in the squad for this series, Jonty Robinson, whose sheer presence does so much to boost the teams he plays in.

But it was another tight affair and an indication of just how close it has been is the fact that after four Test matches and 17 goals, the Europeans scored nine to SA’s eight.

The result means Austria have clinched the series 2-1. The first Test was drawn 1-1 while Austria won the second Test 4-3 and shaded the third Test 2-1.

The three SA goals were superbly crafted, as indeed were Austria’s two successful efforts.

The inexperienced South Africans’ build-up play showed calmness under pressure in defence, ingenuity in the midfield and total confidence in this fourth Test. It was indicative of how a team that had never played together before and fielding more than a dozen uncapped players has grown during the course of this wonderful week of hockey in Durban.

And as in the third Test, tempers boiled over in this fourth encounter and umpires Ayden Shrives and Kirk Mendoza did well to bring a measure of calm when matters got especially heated.

Next up, a newly-selected SA side will do battle with Holland and Ireland from January 19 to 28 in Cape Town.

It will be interesting to see what SA men’s selection convenor Allistar Fredericks and his panel come up with.

RESULTS

1st Test: SA 1 Austria 1

2nd Test: SA 3 Austria 4

3rd Test: SA 1 Austria 2

4th and final Test: SA 3 Austria 2

Austria win series 2-1.

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