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Draw for SA youngsters

South Africa drew 1-1 against Japan in the first match of their Junior World Cup hockey campaign in Singapore and Malaysia on Monday.

South Africa kept the Japanese pretty much camped in their half early on but despite a number of circle entries and the lion’s share of possession, were unable to convert their advantage.

In the 12th minute a short corner was dragged to the left by Antony Vervoort but five minutes later he went in the same direction, his drag flick smashed into the backboards and SA had the lead.

From here on the game went back and forward at a great pace with the SA team showing the greater composure and the defence holding valiantly despite some strong attacks from the pacy Japanese forwards.

The SA strikers were unable to make any inroads and the half looked like ending 1-0. But seconds before halftime the Japanese were awarded a free hit just outside the SA 23-metre line. Captain, Ryota Kubo, a street-wise character with great skills, played the ball into the South African red zone and then smashed it into the ÔÇ£DÔÇØ. Kenta Tanaka left his marker for dead as he deflected his skipper’s drive into the net to level the scores.

The second half was again a high paced affair with the ball going from one end of the field to the other. The Japanese were finding their strikers with through balls only to be thwarted by the solid SA defence.

The South African midfield were also winning their fair share of ball but the strikers failed to convert this possession. Both teams felt the effect of the heat and humidity in the last quarter. Neither showed absolute domination but SA nearly stole it in the dying stages when they were awarded a penalty corner.

Vervoort’s effort was saved by ‘ keeper Katsumi Ichikawa and the drained players had to be satisfied with a draw.

Next up for the South Africans are Germany who beat Chile, not a bad team in their own right, 5-0.