The national men’s hockey side continued their improvement under new coach Fabian Gregory with a 2-2 draw against Argentina on Friday night.
The sides were level 1-1 at halftime in Mar del Plata, reports Jon Cook.
Meanwhile the national women’s side went down 4-1 to the Argentinians in the their fifth and final Test.
Muscular midfielder Clint Panther made SA’s opening goal in the 26th minute with a strong run along the left-hand baseline before giving himself room, but keeper Juan Vivaldi pulled off a fine save only for Nick Spooner to follow up on the rebound.
A lapse in concentration saw Juan Vilas steal in to equalise from Pedro Ibarra’s pinpoint cross for 1-1 in the 31st minute.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿The manner in which SA moved the ball around the park, not allowing Argentina to take possession, quality off-the ball running and pressure play, and making better connections in midfield, gave the lads some, if not all, the reward they deserved.
SA went ahead again in the 47th minute when Lungi Tsolekile took a free-hit in the attacking third of the field and passed infield to Geowynne Gamiet, whose immediate transfer saw Ignatius Malgraff turn beautifully before nailing a superb goal so fluid in its execution (2-1).
A great chance to increase the lead followed soon after but Gamiet couldn’t find an unmarked Malgraff lurking just inside the penalty sport.
The last 20 minutes saw the game turn increasingly ugly as peculiar umpiring decisions took hold ÔÇô much to the detriment of the South Africans ÔÇô and the lost control of proceedings by the officials led to some hot-tempered incidents on both sides.
Argentina equalised in the 52nd minute when the ball trickled in from a Lucas Martinez effort (2-2).
There was some brave defending by SA in the face of a sustained Argentine assault, first wave penalty corner defender Pierre de Voux making a key intervention at one set-piece while Pieterse pulled off a series of top-class pressure saves.
The match ended in the most heated atmosphere with huge protests by the South Africans as the umpiring decisions became increasingly erratic.
Two incidents when the ball was played after the whistle had gone, saw SA central defender Jethro Eustice take two blows, the second leaving him poleaxed on the field and requiring care from the SA bench after the final whistle.
The result gave Argentina a 4-0 series win but SA’s steady improvement as the series wore on was a feature of the five matches.
Meanwhile a disappointing first-half performance by the world’s 11th-ranked Investec women’s side team in the fifth and final Test saw them trail reigning World Cup champs Argentina 2-0.
But much-improved passages of play after the changeover resulted in SA fighting back to 2-1 before a strong finish and some interesting umpiring decisions left Las Leonas (The Lionesses) with a 4-1 win.
World number two Argentina win the series 5-0.
After weathering an early second-half assault as Argentina went in search of a three-goal advantage, captain Sulette Damons’ SA side began connecting and the tourists pulled one back when the skipper cracked a pass towards the never-say-die Bernie Coston, whose deflection effected a fine save from replacement keeper Florencia Mutio.
Alert Celia Evans was perfectly placed to volley home the rebound (2-1).
As if sensing the reprieve signalled retaliatory action, Argentina poured forward and the game became very exciting, if rather loose for the purists. Delfina Merino popped in a PC rebound for 3-1 in the 61st minute and a Noel Barrionuevo PC in the 67th minute made the final score 4-1.
Dirkie Chamberlain, right, and captain Sulette Damon on the charge for SA on Friday.
The match had a rosy start when Western Province’s Quanita Bobbs was honoured for her 50th Test appearance.
Josefina Sruoga of Las Leonas celebrated her 150th match and once the first whistle sounded there was not much joy for SA in the opening stanza, Barrionuevo opening the scoring in the ninth minute from Argentina’s second penalty corner.
In the 17th it was the turn of eight-time World Player of the Year Luciana Aymar to break from outside the attacking third of the pitch and scythe into the strike zone from the left channel in inimitable fashion before slamming her shot into the backboard for 2-0.
SA keeper Anelle van Deventer made a number of very good saves in the match to keep SA in the game; while the South Africans had their moments up front in the first half but too often the final pass did not find its target.