Six minutes of mayhem sink SA

2013-07-08 00:00

THE South Africa men’s hockey team were victims of six minutes of mayhem that transformed the game and dashed their hopes of finishing seventh at the World League tournament in Johor, Malaysia, yesterday.

After a good first half in which they dominated territory and possession, despite trailing 1-0 at the break, SA were hit by field goals from Pakistan’s Muhammad Rizwan Snr, Aamir Shazad and Abdul Haseem Khan between the 37th and 42nd minutes and, in the blink of an eye, were four goals ­behind.

Essentially it was game over as Pakistan were revitalised. Momentum had well and truly shifted in their favour and the world’s fifth-ranked nation were unlikely to concede four or more goals from that point as SA chased the game.

The first-half goal came from Muhammad Waqas via the penalty corner route in the 22nd minute against the run of play in a hesitant Pakistan first half against a confident, attacking SA. Unfortunately, this was not turned into goals, especially in the first 15 minutes.

Following the three-goal whammy in six minutes after the changeover, Abbas Haider Bilgrami made it 5-0 in the 53rd minute with a well-taken backhand before SA had a great spell that realised two fantastic goals inside three ­minutes.

Both goals were evidence of the potential this SA team have if given the same opportunities as the other countries in the world’s top 20 men’s hockey nations.

The first was a diagonal ball from left to right by Miguel da Graca into the strike zone that was superbly deflected into the goal by a diving Tim Drummond at full stretch. That 62nd minute effort was followed hardly two minutes later (64th) when Clint Panther’s long ball found Drummond, whose pass into the strike zone connected with Lloyd Norris-Jones on the half-volley and gave Butt no chance in goal.

Haseem made it 6-2 four minutes from the end (66th).

World No 12 SA were also playing two men short with key men in captain and playmaker Austin Smith and midfielder Jonty Robinson in hospital with dengue fever, the mosquito-borne virus. Smith missed the last three games, played over four days of intense heat and humidity, and Robinson the last two and a half.

Given that final placement ­positions rested on the outcome of each match, it is remarkable that the 14 remaining SA field players were able to put up such a brave fight against teams that had two extra rolling substitutes on each occasion.

It was a fast-paced match with thrills and spills aplenty in each goalmouth and both goalkeepers, Imran Butt of Pakistan and South Africa’s Rassie Pieterse, pulling off memorable saves, as did Pieterse’s understudy, Gowan Jones, who played in the last 21 minutes.

Vice-captain Rhett Halkett led the side for the third consecutive match and the commitment of the South Africans was remarkable, two players in particular having stormers, midfielders Drummond and Panther, but every man had moments of significance for the team.

SA have a second chance at qualifying for the 2014 World Cup if they win the Africa Cup in Nairobi, Kenya, in September/October.

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