Randburg - Argentina edged a courageous South Africa 2-1 at a pulsating Kaspersky Park in Randburg on Sunday to draw the two-Test EagleTurf SA/Argentina Men’s Hockey Series 1-1, this after SA had won the first encounter 5-4 in Friday’s first Test.
After the first six goals were scored in the first 20 minutes of the opening Test it was a hard act to follow for the second Test combatants against a side who are all based in Buenos Aires and have played together for months.
In the third minute Matias Paredes got in a deflection shot but SA keeper Brendon Botes palmed it away. Then Pedro Ibarra scored the sweetest of action goals to open the scoring and in the 10th minute Paredes made it 2-0 when he tipped in from the Pumas’ second consecutive penalty corner.
Southern Gauteng defender Ricky West was simply magnificent with his flat-stick tackles and provincial team-mate Lance Louw was not far behind, as SA fought back hard.
South Africa were missing 14 players due to overseas club commitments and other reasons but it didn’t deter hardworking Amathole-Border striker Julian Hykes, whose determined running earned SA’s first penalty corner after 19 minutes but West put a strong-drag-flick just wide of the near post.
Then it was Botes’s turn to save another Paredes effort before the Pumas won another PC, which Rodrigo Vila smashed past the wrong side of the post. Argentina pumped a good few more at Botes but he and the brave SA defence held strong.
Norris-Jones made use of a Francois Pretorius break to keep the keeper busy but there was agony for SA in the dying first-half minutes when captain Taine Paton’s two penalty corner flicks on the left slip pass first brought an excellent save with the second cannoning into the post and staying out.
After the break, SA as a team were very good and two penalty corners soon resulted, which Argentina kept out but the celebrations came when Thornton McDade netted a top-class goal in the 44th minute.
SA were outstanding in the second half, putting in a fiery performance, from Botes at the back to Hykes and Norris-Jones up front and including the four debut men, and peppered a host of shots at in-form keeper Bermejillo that somehow stayed out.
This match underlined the fact that head coach Gregg Clark and his staff are developing a healthy crop of players who are improving the quality of the squad. It makes for a wider player base that he can choose from and that can only be healthy as competition for berths in the increases.