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Cronje and Malgraff see Team SA pick up the points

By Gary Lemke

An inspired second half performance saw South Africa win their opening men’s hockey pool match 2-0 against Scotland in the midday heat to get their Commonwealth Games campaign off to the perfect start on Friday.

And Rassie Pieterse, marking his 100th Test, will also have enjoyed the fact that he kept a clean sheet, against opponents that he made his international debut back in 2007.

The last time South Africa and Scotland met was earlier in July in the Investec Cup in London, when South Africa won the bronze medal by winning 3-0. For the first half on Friday, though, it was the hosts who enjoyed the better chances and they even thought they had gone 1-0 ahead in the 13th minute, although the scrambled ‘goal’ was disallowed after South Africa reviewed it to the third umpire.

In that first half Scotland proved hard to break down as South Africa patiently tried to spread the ball wide and then attack down the flanks but they struggled to create much out of very little.

In the second half, however, the match took on a very different complexion. The Scots weren’t helped when they received a yellow card in the 38th minute and while they were down to 10 men South Africa earned a penalty corner, and from the attempt the ball was deemed to have struck a defender while goalbound and Andrew Cronje calmly stepped up to convert the penalty flick.

South Africa were looking the fitter, the more inventive and urgent, and coping with the 26 deg C heat better than the hosts. The Flowers of Scotland were wilting in front of a partisan home crowd’s eyes. The Scots earned their only penalty corner of the match in the 56th minute – South Africa had already tallied five of them but had squandered four – and only came back into the game in the last 10 minutes as the crowd tried to loft them.

However, any hopes of snatching a draw were dashed when Ignatius Malgraff popped up late to seal the victory. Their next match is one of the biggest challenges in the world game: Australia on Monday.