Depleted SA go down to Argentina in Malaysia | SASCOC - SASCOC

Depleted SA go down to Argentina in Malaysia

With key attacker, defender and captain Austin Smith missing due to illness, the world’s 12th-ranked South Africa men’s hockey team were beaten 2-0 by┬á in-form Pool A winners Argentina in the quarter-finals of the World League in Johor, Malaysia on Thursday.

Two penalty corner drag-flick goals in the 27th minute and 40th minutes by Gonzalo Peillat accounted for 10th-ranked Argentina’s win and they will play England in Saturday’s semi-finals. South Africa will meet world No16 Japan in the first of the Plate semi-finals, the first round of play-offs for fifth to eighth places. Saturday’s match will be live on SuperSport 5 and HD4 from 8.45am (SA time).

Smith’s absence and midfielder Jonty Robinson 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.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿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 is playing one short and that makes it virtually impossible to win matches at this level.

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 shootout by bagging back-to-back goals, but it was not to be.

ÔÇ£It was a tough game, disappointing and frustrating against a quality side who have played great hockey in the tournament,ÔÇØ Robinson said afterwards. Despite the setback, success against Japan Saturday will set South Africa up for a chance at fifth place on Sunday, a commendable achievement.

And the silver lining is that while SA will miss out on the World League Finals in Delhi, India come January next year, victory in the Africa Cup in three months’ time in Nairobi, Kenya will qualify the lads in green and gold for the 2014 World Cup in The Hague next June.