Smith's four help SA clobber Kenya 5-1 to reach final | SASCOC - SASCOC

Smith’s four help SA clobber Kenya 5-1 to reach final

South Africa men’s hockey team captain Austin Smith scored two pinpoint penalty corner goals in each half against Kenya in Nairobi on Thursday and Julian Hykes added a second-half field goal in a 5-1 win that has sent the men in green and gold into Saturday’s final of the Africa Cup of Nations with a sizeable slice of confidence.

Jon Cook reports that Smith nailed down two corners before the changeover, while Davis Wanangwe replied in a second half that had begun with the Kenyans trailing 2-0.

Earlier, South Africa’s arch-rivals, Egypt, edged Ghana 4-3 in an absolute thriller to clinch their spot in the final. It was a blockbuster affair that had the raucous Nairobi crowd on the edge of their seats heading into the final quarter, particularly since the men from the land of the Pharaohs had been trailing 3-1 with 20 minutes left.

The SA/Kenya match started badly as neither side was able to string enough passes together to make a difference and it was goalkeeper Jaques le Roux who was brought into the match first.

The final pass was still eluding both sides until the South Africans won their first penalty corner in the 13th minute and the world-class PC machine sat the ball up for Smith to deliver a trademark flash of the stick that saw the ball go low to goalkeeper James Kayieko’s right for the opening goal.

In the 15th a neat pass under pressure from Pierre de Voux allowed Beijing 2008 veteran Geoff Abbot a smart turn and snap-shot at goal. Minutes later, a visionary pass from the on-song Smith found Abbott, whose return from an international sabbatical has been a success, the Durban man’s strike going just inches wide.

South Africa were dictating the game, building attacks with care and controlling the pace, thereby negating the Kenyan counter-attacking threat. Yet seven minutes from half-time a stunning pass from Allan Iningu saw Leon Magomede’s flat-stick deflection well-covered by Le Roux.

In the 28th the SA defence were again caught napping, only for Bryan Musasia to flick past the wrong side of the post, much to the disappointment of the vociferous home supporters.

Precise build-up down the right saw Hykes win SA’s second PC and this time Smith went high to Kayieko’s right and the ball ripped into the netting to make it six from six in the tournament.

Smith added two more goals from four second-half penalty corners to cement an 80% conversion rate. Hykes scored SA’s lone field goal of the match in that second half, yet while SA could have scored more, Kenya, too, saw at least three efforts go off target.

SA have beaten Ghana 6-2, Egypt 6-1 and now Kenya 5-1 in this four-country tournament but there can be no doubt that the men from Cairo should be better in the final. The Egyptians edged Kenya 3-2 and tipped past Ghana 4-3 either side of their five-goal drubbing by defending champs South Africa, but a final is just that.

Nothing that is past counts when the opening whistle sounds ÔÇô and the underdogs have seen enough from previous matches to know full well that maybe, just maybe, the gold medal can be won.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿It should be a cracker.