Cape Town - On a windy and
warm afternoon in Johannesburg, South Africa and France played out a thrilling
2-2 draw to open their four-Test men's hockey series.
Both sides are gearing up for the
Hockey World Cup in India and are using this series to fine tune their final
Africa, captained by Keenan Horne, it was also a celebration on two ends of the
Long-time servant of the game Lance Louw celebrated his
100th cap while Peabo Lembethe earned his first.
quarter featured a lot of ball possession by France with South Africa offering
moments of excitement through Dayaan Cassiem and Nic Spooner. Although France
produced three shots in the opening quarter, not one was on target as both
teams struggled to build momentum and continued passages of play. However, as
they game progressed there was better synergies being shown and connections
In the second
quarter France upped the pressure and immediately found themselves trailing.
South Africa employing a counter-attack plan that was highly effective. Spooner won the ball in the middle of the park, drove through the centre and
laid it off to Julian Hykes. The 36-year-old finished with a superb tomahawk
strike to give the hosts the lead. It was a lead that only lasted four minutes
as Victor Charlet fired home the first penalty corner of the game. It would
remain 1-1 at half-time with France having the slightly better game.
quarter was however one for the South Africans to create three massive
opportunities, unfortunately without scoring. Austin Smith fired narrowly wide
from a penalty corner, Tommy Hammond set Dayaan Cassiem one on one with
Thieffry in the French goal, only to shoot narrowly wide and when Cassiem
returned the favour Hammond was unable to control. It was the lack of
ruthlessness that would have frustrated the coaching staff as France took the
lead early in the fourth quarter. Man of the match Tom Genestet, playing in his
168th Test match, drove in from the right and fired a slap bullet
past Gowan Jones into the top left corner.
This is a new
South Africa though, soaking up pressure and launching superb counter attacks
with Hykes, Spooner and Cassiem coming to the fore. It was no surprise that the
equaliser involved the trio. With Spooner distributing the ball from midfield
it worked its way up to Hykes who turned on top D. Thieffry saved the shot but
Cassiem was there to prod home the equaliser. The youngster was delighted with
his contribution and rightfully so.
There was one
more chance for South Africa through another counter attack, but with Taine
Paton earning a harsh green card at the end the lads had to hang on which they
Hopkins and his coaching team there will be lots to work on ahead of the second
test tomorrow, but there were massive positive signs. Probably more satisfying
is the spirit and culture that appeared present. South Africa look to be a side
playing for each other, something that will only strengthen the national team’s
Sunday, November 4, Wits Hockey Astro - 12:00