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Argentina victory makes it a 5-0 Test whitewash

Argentina made it a clean sweep of the five-Test hockey series against South Africa with a 2-1 victory in Pietermaritzburg on Tuesday evening.

The sides were deadlocked at 0-0 halftime on a sodden University of KZN Pietermaritzburg campus before the South American champions ran out winners, reports Jon Cook.

The statistics confirmed that Argentina deserved to win but did not reflect the tremendous fighting spirit of captain Rhett Halkett’s South Africans, who were kept in the game through sheer courage as well as a brilliant display in goal by Rassie Pieterse.

After Argentina had peppered Pieterse with goalshots, SA forward Craig Haley’s solid strike from a good chance in the 19th minute was saved by Juan Vivaldi in goal. Argentina kept up the pressure and opened the scoring against the African champions two minutes after the break (37th) when Facundo Callioni finished superbly after good defending had halted the initial move.

In the 55th minute Haley had a great chance to score but his shot was blocked by the keeper.

SA were soon down to 10 men when umpire Ayden Shrives yellow-carded his former Maritzburg Varsity club-mate, Robin Jones, and minutes later (59th) the supremely talented Lucas Vila ran directly across the field from left to right before his pass was tapped in by an unmarked Matias Paredes lurking on the left goalpost.

The impressive crowd, who stayed the distance in the atrocious weather, erupted when SA pulled a goal back three minutes from the end (67th). A wonderful flowing move that belied the heavy, rain-soaked synthetic turf underfoot saw Pierre de Voux provide the final pass to fellow striker Taine Paton who swept the ball home from the edge of the strike zone.

The Argentina camp protested vociferously, unsuccessfully appealing that Paton’s shot was taken from just outside the strike zone. Then a Wade Paton snapshot went just wide at the death and the spoils were deservedly Argentina’s.

Deceptive runners who have the ability to go left and right at pace allowed the South Americans to capitalise on turning over SA possession. They won nine penalty corners to South Africa’s one and had it not been for Pieterse’s outstanding ability on the night, at set-pieces and field play, the scoreline would have been more.

SA had a good 10-minute period up to the half-hour mark but were not able to keep possession for long enough during the rest of the match to make a difference.

Coach Carlos Retegui’s Argentina side are preparing for the World League Final tournament in Delhi in early January next year, which will feature the best teams on the planet, while SA are coming off the back of a long journey that began at the national camp in Cape Town at the end of January this year.

SA also came into this series after a gruelling week-long camp at the University of Johannesburg. Rest will no doubt be in order for the South Africans.

Argentina (0) 2 Facundo Callioni 37th, Matias Paredes 59th) South Africa (0) 1 (Taine Paton 67th).
Previous results: First Test: Argentina 4 SA 2; Second Test: Argentina 1 SA 0; Third Test: Argentina 3 SA 2; Fourth Test: Argentina 7 SA 3.