Four matches, four wins. That’s not a bad record in anyone’s language and it sets South Africa’s beach-volleyball men’s doubles pair up perfectly for the semi-finals, writes GARY LEMKE in Rabat.
Not only did Grant Goldschmidt and his long-time partner, Leo Williams, get past Nigeria in their quarter-final on Sale Beach, but they did so without dropping a set. Their 21-18, 21-12 victory means they have now dispatched Ghana, Sudan, Sierra Leona and Nigeria without having to be stretched into a deciding set at these African Games.
Awaiting them in the semi-finals are the tournament favourites, hosts Morocco. But it’s not something that will daunt the South Africans.
‘We’re feeling quite good,’ Goldschmidt, who represented Team SA at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said. ‘We started the tournament really strong and focused after a good preparation overseas, where we spent two-and-a-half-weeks in Europe.
‘Today was by no means the perfect match, but I think we were a bit rusty because we had two days off where we did nothing. Here and there we played a few points badly, but whenever you beat a team like Nigeria 2-0 you have to be happy with the result. No, we will rest this afternoon, stay focused, have some good food and make sure we get enough rest ahead of the semi-final tomorrow,’ Goldschmidt added.
Playing on centre court in the first match of the day, albeit 11am local time when the sun was high in the clear blue sky, South Africa found themselves in a bit of a dog fight with their opponents, with not much between them. Just when it looked as though they might be gaining the ascendancy, their opponents came back at them.
However, they pulled things together and got over the line to win the first set 21-18, but quickly found themselves down early in the second. Again, they composed themselves and fought back, from 2-4 down to 5-5, then 6-6, but then Williams won two quality points at the net and suddenly South Africa found a bit of momentum.
After a Goldschmidt serve went long for 9-7, the pair upped the tempo. They quickly stretched their lead to 13-7, then 15-8 and 17-9 and the end was in sight.
‘I think our experience pulled us through,’ said Goldschmidt. ‘We stayed calm and we knew what we needed to do. Once we got back to level, we concentrated on opening the gap and it ended up being quite a comfortable set and win.’
Now that they’re in the semi-finals they’re in medals territory and despite being ranked 12th coming into this event, they are far better than that. The ranking is biased as they haven’t competed in as many points events as some of their rivals.
‘We were definitely seen as a medal threat to other teams,’ Goldschmidt said. ‘They all know we’re a good team, but it will be tough against Morocco. They’ve played world events recently, they went to the world champs. They are well prepared. But, we are by no means rank outsiders.’
The winner of SA versus Morocco will play for the gold medal, while the losers will face the losers of the second semi for the bronze medal.