The South Africa men’s hockey team and Japan were locked 1-1 at half-time in their top-of-the log Olympic Qualifier Tournament match at Gifu Green Stadium in Kakamigahara, Japan on Wednesday.
Jon Cook reports that with 10 minutes to the break Japan won their first penalty corner, somewhat controversially, from which keeper Rassie Pieterse made a great double save before captain Kawakami Kei pounced on the rebound. But just four minutes later Ian Haley whipped in a speculative cross and Lloyd Norris-Jones was on hand to equalise (1-1).
Earlier, in the fourth minute a Justin Reid-Ross long ball to Haley found Marvin Harper who earned South Africa’s only PC of the half but first wave defender Katsuyoshi Nagasawa comfortably ran down the opportunity. Then Pieterse in goal made a timely intervention on the quick Japanese counter-attack before Tim Drummond nearly decapitated the umpire with a slashing shot wide of the far post at the other end.
SA captain Austin Smith was hugely influential in the middle while Lance Louw made a great tackle that snuffed out a Japan counter-attack before Pieterse, Lloyd Madsen and Norris-Jones were key in other heart-stopping moments in the SA goalmouth.
Wade Paton and Julian Hykes set up Thornton McDade 16 minutes from half-time but goalkeeper Katsuya Takase narrowed the angle with slide-rule precision.