The South African men’s hockey team lost 4-1 to France in the second Test match of the series at Wits Hockey Astro on Sunday, after the opening game was drawn 2-2.
The match marked the 150th cap for 2016 SA Hockey Player of the Year Rhett Halkett, and the players were looking to build on the positive showing from Saturday.
They had a positive opening 25 minutes, including a 10-minute phase where they were a player short due to Tommy Hammonds’ yellow card. Employing a more possession-based game than in the opening match, the Proteas were unlucky not to take an early lead when Peabo Lembethe hit the post from the first penalty corner, while Austin Smith was also denied by Thierrfly in the French goal.
The Proteas were growing in the game where the likes of Taine Paton, Mohamed Mea and Taylor Dart were seeing plenty of ball by creating pockets of space for players to run into. But an old foe of SA Hockey struck its head as the finishing was not clinical enough.
Having weathered the storm, France landed the double sucker punch before half-time. Timothee Clement was not closed quickly enough and left one-on-one with Rassie Pieterse, finished superbly. Just 60 seconds later, they landed the second with a superb finish by Maximillen Branicki firing home a tomahawk passed to Pieterse.
The second half featured much of the same with Team SA lacking the devastating blow, while France delivered another double punch in the third quarter. Victor Charlet converted both penalty corners that France won, making it three out of three for the series, to give the French a 4-0 lead.
Team SA refused to go down without a fight and are able to create a few great opportunities through Nqobile ‘Bili’ Ntuli, Julian Hykes and Dart, but were unable to score. They managed to get a consolation goal right at the end when a good penalty corner variation saw Hykes get his second of the tournament.
The next Test will be the French’s 19th Test of the year, while it’s only the seventh for the Proteas. However, the week ahead will be a great opportunity for the team to stay and train together, which will be highly valuable for their World Cup preparations, before the third and fourth Tests next weekend.
Photo: Peabo Lembethe playing in his first international series for South Africa against France. By Marcel Sigg/Run Ride Dive