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Draw sets up the SA-Austria series for thrilling conclusion
- Updated: January 6, 2015
The first Test between a new-look South Africa men’s hockey team and Austria got off to a perfect start in conditions ideal for international hockey at Queensmead in Durban on Monday evening and a 1-1 drew in this exciting encounter has set up the week’s remaining three Tests.
Jon Cook reports that SA dominated for most of the game and Durban’s Dan Sibbald got the green and gold side in front with a sizzling back-stick shot from the top of the strike zone in the 40th minute after the initial assist from debutant Mondli Dlamini.
The Europeans finished strongly and highly experienced Michael Koerter found the equaliser in the 53rd via a penalty corner drag flick.
There was much to enthuse during this high-energy encounter and it was heart-warming to see the slew of SA debutants looking at home in the cut-and-thrust action of world-level hockey.
Durban’s Ross Hetem had an early chance while Dlamini set up a penalty corner with fellow debutant Andrew Manson in the second quarter that saw drag flick ace Matt Guise-Brown’s bullet well saved by keeper Mateusz Szymcyk.
There was a torrid battle in the engine room and here the SA captain Jonty Robinson and centre back Jethro Eustice – two of SA’s most experienced players – were invaluable in providing direction and cohesion to the playing pattern.
It was five minutes toward the end of the third quarter when Dlamini on the right fed Sibbald, who flipped the ball over a defender’s stick before rifling a reverse-stick blast past replacement keeper Michael Maentler (1-0).
As the final quarter of the modern 15-minute chukkas of four began, yet another Durbanite, Mohammed Mea, slipped a through-ball to Southern Gauteng’s Brandon Panther whose rocket shot led to a second SA penalty corner but successive efforts from the set-piece came to nought, the latter strike flying over the wrong side of the crossbar.
As the vocal crowd sensed a SA victory, Koerter silenced those thoughts with the PC equaliser seven minutes from time, and two more late chances were foiled by the green and gold defence, the last bringing out a fine diving save from keeper Gowan Jones in a one-on-one with Koerter.
REMAINING TESTS (all at Queensmead)
Tuesday: Second Test (6pm)
Thursday: Third Test (6pm)
Friday: Fourth Test (2pm)
In the picture Jethro Eustice gets the better of Michael Koerter in Monday’s action. Picture by Michael Botha.