Superior French finishing decides SA hockey Test

Rhett Halkett (Gallo Images)
Rhett Halkett (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The South African Men’s Hockey team took on France in the second Test of the series at Wits Hockey Astro on Sunday after the opening match had been drawn 2-2.

The match marked the 150th cap for 2016 SA Hockey Player of the Year Rhett Halkett and South Africa were looking to build on the positive showing from Saturday.

And they did that for the opening 25 minutes, including for a 10-minute phase where they were a player short due to Tommy Hammonds yellow card. Employing a more possession-based game than in the opening match the South African men were unlucky not to take an early lead when Peabo Lembethe hit the post from the first penalty corner, while Austin Smith was also denied by the French goalkeeper.

The South Africans were growing in the game and the likes of Taine Paton, Mohamed Mea and Taylor Dart were seeing plenty of ball in creating pockets of space for players to run into. But on old foe of South African hockey struck its head as the finishing was not clinical enough.

Having weathered the storm France landed the double sucker punch before half time. Timothee Clement was not closed quickly enough and left one-on-one with Rassie Pieterse and he finished superbly. Just 60 seconds later they landed the second with a superb finish by Maximillen Branicki firing home a tomahawk passed Pieterse.

The second half featured much of the same with South Africa lacking the devastating blow, while France delivered a double punch in the third quarter. Victor Charlet converted both penalty corners that France won, making it 3 out of 3 for the series, to give the French a 4-0 lead.

What was refreshing from the South Africans however was the refusal to stop fighting and they created a few great opportunities through Nqobile “Bili” Ntuli, Julian Hykes and Taylor Dart but were unable to score. They did get their consolation goal right at the end when a good penalty corner variation saw Julian Hykes get his second of the tournament.

The Test was incredibly the French 19th Test match of the year, while it’s only the seventh for South Africa, further highlighting the difficulty that South Africa face in getting Test match action. The week ahead however will be a great opportunity for the team to stay and train together, which will be highly valuable for the World Cup preparations, before the third and fourth Test matches next weekend.

The third Test will be on Friday, November 9 at 16:30.

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