The final Test between the SA Hockey men and France has come to an end, with France winning 2-0 in the 100th Test match under captain Victor Charlet.
Even though the series may have reaped positives, there is a concern for Mark Hopkins and the coaching staff regarding the many opportunities that were created against them.
Team SA had many chances during the match where they were in possession but made misplaced passes and errors.
Fortunately, Gowan Jones and Rassie Pieterse were in fine form alongside Austin Smith, Jethro Eustice and Rhett Halkett, consistently pulling off quality tackles when needed. Even though Team SA were unhappy about giving away four penalty corners, they managed to handle them very well.
Although the SA Hockey men’s team did their best in trying to create more chances, they will need to focus on their finishing. In spite of Julian Hykes, Dayaan Cassiem, Bili Ntuli and Nic Spooner being able to produce some excitement for the crowds during the series, they will need to work harder in finding their range quickly ahead of their next clash with India.
During the match, Team SA trailed to a 12th-minute strike from Etienne Tynevez and were forced to work their socks off in the second quarter. The third quarter was arguably their best in the series, as wave after wave of attack was launched with Mo Mea orchestrating things down the right side. Tyson Dlungwana, Taine Paton and Ntuli featured regularly as Team SA surged forward looking for an equaliser, but were unable to find one.
The fourth quarter was more balanced, but France struck a killer blow through Charles Masson to confirm their victory. With time for one goal by Team SA, national captain Keenan Horne deflected in a shot towards the end of the match.
Mea shared his thoughts after the game, ‘It was a good series and it was good to be playing competitive hockey in preparation of the World Cup. We have made some great improvement and we are heading in the right direction. I would just like to say to the South African public, thank you for your support!’
It was the first chance for this squad to train together against a well-structured French squad. The French now have a Test match against Belgium before they head to India to take on Spain, New Zealand and Argentina in Pool A, while the SA Hockey men’s team will take on India, Belgium and Canada in Pool B.
Photo: Bili Ntuli and Jean-Baptiste Forgues battle it out at Wits Hockey Astro, by Marcel Sigg/Run Ride Dive