SA hockey men crush Czechs
Kakamigahara - The South Africa men’s hockey team chalked up their second win of the Olympic Qualifier Tournament here in Japan on Saturday when they ground out a 6-2 victory over an obdurate Czech Republic.
The South Africans led 4-1 at half-time.
The ugly, ill-tempered affair did not do justice to the most beautiful of spring days and sin-bin cards did little to cool tempers.
Justin Reid-Ross took his tally to six in the tournament with a field goal and penalty corner (PC), while field goals from Tim Drummond, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Lance Louw and Thornton McDade completed the SA scoring.
Martin Seemann and Stepan Bernatek netted field goals for the Czechs.
Second-favourites Japan beat the Czechs 6-0 on day one while top seeds South Africa had accounted for minnows Brazil 11-1.
The stakes rise significantly for South Africa on Monday when they take on third-favourites China at 18:30 (11:30 SA time).
In the third minute an inspired Andrew Cronje through-ball to Julian Hykes was followed by a strong Ian Haley snap shot, which brought the first PC. Reid-Ross made no mistake, his drag-flick ricocheting off keeper Filip Neusser’s glove (1-0).
In the seventh the disruptive Czech defenders couldn’t stop Hykes from threading his way through for Drummond to finish (2-0). Haley then set up Wade Paton whose reverse-stick rocket flashed over the crossbar.
With South Africa playing all the hockey, the match threatened to get ugly as delayed tactics negated the free flow of the game and a Czech was consigned to the sidelines, but completely against the run of play Seemann did very well to pull a goal back (2-1).
Norris-Jones got in two shots and Hykes one as South Africa regained composure, and with seven minutes left in-form SA skipper Austin Smith set up Norris-Jones for a great goal, the striker running intelligently into space before finishing with aplomb (3-1).
Martin Babicky shot just wide at the other end before Smith teed up for Lance Louw to nail South Africa’s fourth after the left-side defender had stolen up the left flank unnoticed (4-1).
With two minutes left SA keeper Rassie Pieterse saved from Stepan Bernatek before first wave Jonty Robinson ran down the Czech’s first PC, preventing potent drag-flicker Tomas Prochazka from making his presence felt. On half-time SA’s second PC was comfortably saved by Neusser.
Five minutes after the changeover the Czechs grabbed a rare bite of possession and Bernatek buried his shot into the backboard (4-2). Norris-Jones played intelligently to earn South Africa’s third PC but again it was saved.
With 20-odd minutes left, both sides squared up toe to toe and tempers threatened to boil over into something extremely serious. Vilem Topek was sin-binned.
Drummond won possession and South Africa came close to scoring their fifth as the entire Czech team were massed in the defensive third.
More sin-bin cards were dished out. Undaunted, the Proteas kept playing the hockey and Reid-Ross scored from out left, further underlining South Africa’s massive advantage in entries into the strike zone (5-2).
Five minutes from time the Czechs won a disputed PC - and then another - as tempers again flared to breaking point, and the slip left to Bernatek was palmed away by Pieterse. Then Hykes pressured a Czech into error and strike partner McDade finished superbly (6-2).SA line-up:
Goalkeeper: Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng).
Defenders: Andrew Cronje (Western Province), Justin Reid-Ross (Northern Blues), Lance Louw (SG), Lloyd Madsen (KZN Coastal Raiders).
Midfielders: Jonty Robinson (NB), Clinton Panther (SG), Austin Smith (capt, WP), Tim Drummond (KCR), Wade Paton (KCR), Taine Paton (KCR).
Strikers: Ian Haley (WP), Marvin Harper (KCR), Lloyd Norris-Jones (WP), Julian Hykes (Amathole-Border), Thornton McDade (SG).
Rested: Goalkeeper Michael Smith (Witwatersrand), Rhett Halkett (NB). SA match programme:
April 26: South Africa 11 Brazil 1; April 28: South Africa 6 Czech Republic 2; April 30: vs China (11:30 SA time); May 2: vs Japan (09:00 SA time); May 4: vs Austria (11:30 SA time); May 6: Classification matches (5/6 places); (3/4 places); final (08:00 SA time).Tim Drummond takes the ball up for South Africa despite the close attentions of Czech Republic's Martin Babicky. (Photo: Stanislas Brochier)