SA, GB share series | SASCOC - SASCOC

SA, GB share series

The world’s 12th ranked hockey side, South African drew 3-3 with their fourth-ranked opponents Great Britain in Stellenbosch on Saturday to share the three-Test series, after GB had led 2-0 at half-time.

The result means the series ends at 1-1 after underdogs South Africa had shocked the fancied Brits 5-3 in the first Test before Great Britain restored balance via a 3-1 victory in the second international.

SA started well with the first penalty corner in the 11th minute from Justin Reid-Ross forcing a save on the goalline.

“We let them back into the game,” said SA captain Austin Smith and the upshot was two field goals within three minutes by Mark Pearn (15th) and Barry Middleton (18th) for Great Britain’s 2-0 lead at half-time.

“Our intensity was better in the second half, we moved the ball quickly and our hockey was generally more pure,” Smith said.

Four minutes after the changeover Wade Paton netted a penalty corner (39th), five minutes afterwards it was pacy striker Lloyd Norris-Jones who got in on the act and hardly a minute had lapsed since that success when fellow forward Julian Hykes made it 3-2 for the men in green and gold.

SA held their lead until 11 minutes from the end (59th) when Mark Gleghorn equalised for Great Britain via the penalty corner route.

“In the last 20 seconds we had two shots at goal,” said Smith. “But to be fair Great Britain also had opportunities to win this match.

Due to work on the stadium roof, the series-deciding Test match had to be moved from Hartleyvale Hockey Stadium at the last moment.

In accordance with legislative requirements it was too late to put the necessary safety procedures in place at the new venue.

In terms of the law no-one bar players, technical officials and media were allowed at the venue.

The Western Cape international series concludes Sunday when SA tackle top Dutch Hoofdklasse club Pinoke at 11.30am at Central Hockey Club in Athlone.

The SA squad may face more player changes when they take on Austria in a two-Test series at Randburg on Saturday, 25 February and on Sunday 26 February.

After the five-Test series against India in Delhi last month, six SA players had to go back to work and missed the GB series. A number of the players involved in the current series may also face that reality.

The one consolation is that head coach Gregg Clark is building a competitive player pool with few in the squad guaranteed a place when Smith’s men face the acid test of winning the Olympic Qualifier Tournament in Japan in just over 10 weeks’ time.

Nothing less than gold will suffice for SA to guarantee a ticket to London.

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