SA hockey men beaten but not broken

2014-06-02 00:00

THE world’s 12th-ranked South Africa men’s hockey team were beaten 4-0 by back-to-back Olympic champions and world number two Germany after the Europeans had led 2-0 at half-time in the World Cup at Kyocera Stadium in The Hague, Netherlands, yesterday.

SA head coach Fabian Gregory was encouraged by his side’s performance and praised goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse for the number of fine saves he made, while the mentor was somewhat disappointed in his forwards’ inability to make more of opportunities created up front, particularly in the first half.

That said, Germany keeper Nicolas Jacobi was called on to make the first two (very good) saves of the match.

German head coach and multiple gold medal winner Markus Weise was complimentary of the South Africans’ performance and said he didn’t feel comfortable until Germany went 3-0 up near the hour mark.

“I am relieved South Africa did not win any penalty corners but the match was never easy,” said Weise, while Gregory commented that the German defence did “exceptionally well in one-on-one situations” to prevent penalty corners, one of the men in green and gold’s biggest weapons.

The match was tempestuous at times with the German markers appearing to do much pushing and shoving. SA felt particularly aggrieved at some of Australian umpire Tim Pullman’s decisions, the penalty awarded, as well as other calls in defence that went against South Africa, while an outraged Taine Paton was bundled off the ball and not awarded what appeared to be a straightforward penalty corner decision.

World number two Germany were definitely the better side.

“I am not one for excuses, we look forward and don’t focus on the uncontrollables,” said Gregory.

The coach said today would be “a full training day”, and a focus point would be to work on closing down the diagonals balls from the left and right that cut the SA defence up.

Pieterse’s heroics enabled SA to weather the storm during periods of German control while resolute defending at the back gave South Africa the opportunity to create attacks on the breakout. The weak link was the connectivity between the strikers and the midfield and defensive lines, with numerous chances breaking down too early.

“We competed well in the first 25 minutes,” said Gregory. “I felt that if we had not conceded that second goal, it would have given us more impetus going into the second half.”

Germany scored through Christopher Zeller from the penalty spot in the 27th minute, a field goal on the half-time whistle by Thilo Stralkowski and second-half strikes from Mats Grambusch (56th minute) and Oliver Korn in the 59th.

Now it’s time to look towards tomorrow’s 2.30 pm game against world number six New Zealand (live on SuperSport 7).

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