Proteas gutted by penalty loss to Japan | SASCOC - SASCOC

Proteas gutted by penalty loss to Japan

Rhett Halkett, South Africa men’s hockey team captain in the Plate semi-final of the World League event in Johor, Malaysia, said Saturday night that the team’s 3-2 overall defeat by Japan was a bitter pill to swallow.

ÔÇ£Heart breaking is a bit of an understatement, The Lads are truly gutted about the result,ÔÇØ the defender said of a thrilling match where Japan equalised for the 2-2 score at regulation time with just 90 seconds left on the clock” writes Jon Cook.

To compound matters SA lost the penalty shootout 1-0 with the last effort of the regulation five shootout shuttles going Japan’s way. It was a remarkably brave performance by the lads in green and gold, who went into the key match without two lynchpins, regular captain and playmaker Austin Smith and midfielder Jonty Robinson, who are both in hospital with Dengue Fever, a mosquito-borne illness.

World No12 SA now play in the seventh/eighth place playoff against world number five Pakistan on Sunday.

ÔÇ£It is never pleasant to lose a game in the lottery of a shootout but unfortunately that is the reality of elite international sport,ÔÇØ said Halkett. ÔÇ£I feel we were a bit unfortunate not to win the game in regulation time due to the numerous chances we created but in saying that we also allowed them to sneak in the back door after defending really well for good periods of the game.ÔÇØ

Halkett cannot praise enough the ÔÇ£truly magicalÔÇØ support the team has received from the South African public. ÔÇ£We cannot express our gratitude enough for the constant messages and unwavering support through this tournament.ÔÇØ

Halkett also pointed out a vital ingredient missing from the SA team as opposed to the world’s top 20 countries ÔÇô the inadequate length of time spent together in training camps and in playing matches as a squad. ÔÇ£It is a huge pity that this group of players are not exposed to more international hockey throughout the year,ÔÇØ said Halkett.

ÔÇ£It is difficult to bleed young players into the international arena when we are attending qualification tournaments. However, I am extremely proud of this group of players as this tour has been a challenge on many levels, yet we keep growing stronger with every day and every game.

ÔÇ£We missed Austin and Jonty today; together they represent over 150 international caps and experience, which is crucial in these tight games. The young guys were sharp during the tight phases and unfortunately in international hockey, mistakes are going to happen. We learn valuable lessons from these games, some hockey-specific and some about ourselves as individuals. These lessons will only make us stronger and come out as a better team.ÔÇØ

Halkett had much sympathy for his team-mates. ÔÇ£My heart bleeds for the guys who took the shootouts, it is never a pleasant way to lose the game, and full credit must go to the Japanese keeper, whose individual heroics won them the game. [SA keeper] Rassie [Pieterse] did his very best and kept us in it up until the end, where he lost his footing slightly.

ÔÇ£It certainly sucks to be on the losing side of the fence in a game where you have worked extremely hard for victory, with two players short, in the screaming heat. I am still proud to be a small part of this team and we will continue to charge as hard as our bodies will allow us in tomorrow’s final game versus Pakistan.ÔÇØ

Japan 3 (ManabaHatakeyama penalty corner, own goal, Kei Kawakami penalty shootout) South Africa 2 (Craig Haley penalty corner rebound, Wade Paton penalty corner variation)