Jonothan at Hartleyvale

In an action-packed Test match that oozed class and huge endeavour, the SA men’s hockey team outlasted arch-continental rivals Egypt 3-2 at Hartleyvale in Cape Town Sunday to go top of Pool A in the Greenfields FIH World League Round 2 tournament.

SA earned two log points on Saturday against China, one for the enthralling 4-4 draw and another for winning the penalty shootout 4-3. In International Hockey Federation (FIH) events there has to be a winner in each match.

Amastokkestokke meet Switzerland in their last Pool A match on Tuesday at 6.30pm and a solid win will ensure they finish top of the pool and set up what should in practice be a relatively straight forward Thursday quarter-final against the bottom team in Pool B, which is likely to be Azerbaijan.

SA carved open a hatful of opportunities in each of the four chukkas of 15 minutes apiece as they ran and passed with a purpose that was markedly improved for the China match. Egypt were not far off the mark either and it made for a fiercely competitive Africa continent derby.

After strikers Taine Paton, Julian Hykes and Pierre de Voux had made their presence felt with electrifying combination play, defender Rhett Halkett stepped up to slot home from the penalty spot in sixth ,minute, leaving keeper Mohamed Gamal with no chance.

Gamal was a rock in goal for Egypt during this absorbing clash and on the stroke of the first quarter’s end he foiled a Clint Panther combination play with Paton. The SA defenders also had their hands full at times and Dylan Swanepoel and Matt Guise-Brown, the outside halves, were called on to make crucial interventions, as were their team-mates on a number of occasions during the match.

Rassie Pieterse in the SA goal also made several top-class saves as shots flew in at all angles during the match. Hykes and fellow front-man Shannon Boucher tested Gamal further as SA went into the halfway stage 1-0 up.

Time Drummond and Paton put Egypt under pressure before Hykes unleashed a piledriver to out SA 2-0 up in the 37th minute. But three minutes from the third quarter being wrapped up (42nd minute) Hamada Atef struck from a penalty corner (2-1).

Not 40 seconds into the fourth and final chukka (47th minute) SA launched yet another attack and Paton, faced with two equally promising passing options, slipped the ball left to De Voux who finished with aplomb (3-1).

But virtually from the re-start Egypt were again within striking distance when Waleed Mohamed finished in great style (3-2).

There was drama aplenty in the closing stages with SA feeling aggrieved at some decisions that might have had significant consequences on the outcome, but Amastokkestokke held firm.


Pool B: Belarus 4 Azerbaijan 3; France 4 Czech Republic 0.
Pool A: China 5 Switzerland 1; South Africa 3 Egypt 2.

Pool A: 1 South
Africa 5pts (goal difference +1); 2 China 4pts (GD+4); 3 Egypt 3pts (GD+3); 4 Switzerland 0pts (GD -8). Pool B: 1 France 6pts (GD+8); 2 Czech Republic 3pts (GD-2); 3 Belarus 3pts (GD-3); 4 Azerbaijan 0pts

Tuesday fixtures:
Pool B: France vs Belarus (11h45); Azerbaijan vs Czech Republic (14h00).
Pool A: China vs Egypt (16h15); South Africa vs Switzerland (18h30).