SA men struggle without key player

2013-07-05 00:00

MISSING key attacker, defender and captain Austin Smith due to illness, the world’s 12th-ranked South Africa men’s hockey team were beaten 2-0 by world No 10 and in-form Pool A winners Argentina in the quarter-finals of the World League in Johor, Malaysia yesterday.

Two penalty corner drag-flick goals in the 27th and 40th minutes by Gonzalo Peillat accounted for Argentina’s win and they will play England in tomorrow’s semi-


SA will meet world No 16 Japan in the first of the Plate semi-finals, the first round of play-offs for fifth to eighth places. Tomorrow’s match will be live on SuperSport 5 and HD4 from 8.45 am (SA time).

Smith’s absence and midfielder Jonty Robinson being not 100% fit unsettled the South African game plan and balance. To some extent, players had to play out of position in an attempt to fill the considerable hole left by Smith not being on the pitch.

To compound matters, with 18 players per side, including a goalkeeper and six field players on the rolling substitutes’ bench, missing a field player, never mind one of Smith’s stature, effectively means a team are playing one short.

Argentina took full advantage and SA withstood an early barrage from arguably the form team of the tournament. Tim Drummond, guarding the far post, pulled off two top saves on the goalline from bullet PC drag flicks by Peillat, while on-song SA goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse made a remarkable save low to his right at point-blank range from Facundo Callioni.

The pressure had to tell and Peillat’s first goal came from Argentina’s fourth PC. Running the right line, SA first-wave defender Robinson was unfortunate that the ball deflected unkindly off his stick, the diverted flight path wrong-footing Pieterse.

Five minutes after the change­over, Peillat made it 2-0 from Argentina’s fifth PC and as hard as they tried, the disrupted SA line-up were battling to put any cohesive go-forward ball together. Peillat hit the post with Argentina’s sixth PC and while SA had moments on attack, the opposition defence were up for the challenge.

With just under four minutes left SA substituted Pieterse and added another field player in a last attempt to force the match into a penalty shoot-out by bagging back-to-back goals, but sadly it was not to be.

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