SA take on Japan | SASCOC - SASCOC

SA take on Japan

Japan await the South African men’s hockey team in the quarter-finals of the Champions Challenge at Randburg on Thursday.

This after our men went down 2-1 to Belgium in their final Champions Challenge Pool B clash on Tuesday.

A textbook Tom Boon penalty corner and Jerome Dekeyser’s clinical finish of a lightning counter-attack gave Belgium a 2-0 half-time lead before SA enjoyed a better second half to pull a goal back through a searing Justin Reid-Ross drag-flick.

The match was marred by the deliberate breakdowns the Belgians inflicted on the SA men and it was only near the end that the umpires finally started punishing them. Had the sin-bin cards had been dealt out early, the match’s outcome may well have been different.

In the third minute Belgium’s first entry into the SA circle led to the first penalty corner (PC) and the prolific Tom Boon rifled his drag-flick high into the net (1-0). SA fought back when striker Marvin Harper won a PC two minutes later but the Belgian first-wave defender blocked Justin Reid-Ross’s shot.

In the ninth SA striker Thornton McDade forced his way through several tackles but his attempt went inches wide. A minute later Belgium appealed for a penalty stroke but after consultation the umpires awarded a PC and keeper Brendon Botes made a great glove save but seconds later Belgium underlined their intent when a slashing shot went on the wrong side of the far post.

Superb build-up saw Belgium again come close as SA needed to find the solution in defence.

SA drew hope from a superb left-right overhead from Lloyd Madsen to KZN Coastal Raiders team-mate Gareth Carr and a one-two with captain Austin Smith saw the man with 13 stitches in his bandaged forehead come too close for Belgium’s comfort. Carr was struck a sickening blow in the 7-4 defeat to India on Sunday.

With 13 to half-time Belgium earned their third PC but Boon shot wide. Seven to go, well-worked build-up earned SA’s second PC but once again the shot, this time from Smith, was blocked by the first wave and Belgium’s lightning counter-attack was finished off by Jerome Dekeyser (2-0).

Belgium continued to build the better attacks and Rhett Halkett made a stunning save on the goalline before Botes stopped another effort from point-blank range as the teams moved into the change-rooms for the half-time team talk.

It worked as SA came out firing and three shots in quick succession from close-in miraculously didn’t get past the goalline. Then Smith’s PC was saved on the goalline. Another PC followed and Justin Reid-Ross fired a bullet-like drag-flick into the roof of the net (2-1).

The SA defence got the team out of several tight moments thereafter, Botes and Madsen in particular, while the SA attacks were broken down deliberately and illegally. SA were eventually awarded another PC and Carr’s drag-flick was gloved away by the keeper.

Gauthier Boccard shot over the crossbar midway through the second half and with 14 left a neat one-man overhead from the ever-consistent Wade Paton found Halkett who fired in a cross that earned yet another PC for Smith’s men and this time Carr’s effort was superbly saved on the line.

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