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Hockey men qualify

Our men’s hockey team joined their female counterparts at the 2012 London Olympics on Sunday after a thrilling 2-1 win over Japan at the final Olympic qualifying tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan, writes Mark Etheridge.

Great goals by Thornton McDade, nine minutes into the second half and Lloyd Norris-Jones in the 17th minute booked South Africa’s ticket to London.

McDade’s effort was a brilliant individual goal from down the right before he hit a reverse stick shot into virtually an open goal.

Norris-Jones’ effort was just as impressive, as captain Austin Smith’s superb run-out from a Japanse penalty corner set the strikers free and Norris-Jones, the man they call “Chucky” made it 2-0 to the South Africans. South Africa had defended the Japanese PC with just four defenders after Jonty Robinson had been carded for breaking too early.

The host nation pulled one back with six minutes to go through Kenji Kitazato when his shot went in off the post to set up an enthralling final saga with both goalkeepers pulling off superb saves.

Gregg Clark’s men were ranked 12th going into the tournament and Japan 15th. Japan were bidding to make their first Olympics since Mexico in 1968 while South African ended 10th in the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece and 12th in Beijing, China in 2008.

Drag-flick king Justin Reid-Ross’ nine goals saw him named as goalscorer of the tournament, further reason to celebrate for South Africa.

The two sides were deadlocked at 0-0 at halftime.

The match had swung from end to end in the first half with South Africa first to fire in a shot, via Marvin Haper which was comfortably saved by goalkeeper Nagaoki in the third minute.

Japan had the first penalty-corner opportunity in the 11th minute but Nagasawa’s shot didn’t bother goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse unduly.

The South Africans spent more time in the Japanese half and were patient in their build-up as the swift Japanese strikers had to rely largely on high balls out of defence.

With 10 minutes to go Japan had Katsuoyishi Nagasawa sent off for two minutes after an elbow in the back of one of the South Africans.

Five minutes to the hooter and South Africa had their first penalty corner crack and Andrew Cronje failed to convert. From the resulting follow-up corner Justin Reid-Ross had his scorching shot well saved by the keeper.

South Africa ended the half encamped in the Japanese half as they desperately sought to consolidate their dominance.

Full match report and quotes from Japan to follow…


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