Although the series has already been won, the South Africa men’s hockey team still want to win Tuesday’s fourth and final Test match against Malaysia for a number of reasons.
ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿The match will be played at Randburg and for the national men’s team it is a rare opportunity to showcase their skills to a Gauteng crowd in a ÔÇ£properÔÇØ Test series. After winning the first Test 2-1 and triumphing 3-1 in the second Test match, the SA men took an unassailable 2-0 lead with two Tests to play going into Sunday’s third consecutive international at Potchefstroom on Sunday.
Sunday’s third Test ended in a 4-4 draw after SA had fought back from 3-0 down with 25 minutes left and then managed to draw the match with just eight seconds left on the clock thanks to a fine deflection goal by arguably the top striker of the series, Southern Gauteng’s Julian Hykes.
It was an uncomfortable match for SA as defensive lapses and sundry errors allowed Malaysia to establish a 3-0 lead and the lads were visibly disappointed at their patchy display, despite having the character to conjure up a share of the points by the final whistle.
The last time the SA men played a Test match that was part of a proper series, not a tournament, was 15 months ago in Cape Town ÔÇô and before that a rather longtime ago in Johannesburg.
Another reason why the SA lads are determined to finish with a win is the fact that they play Malaysia in the opening round of the World League semi-finals in Johor Bahru, Malaysia in three weeks’ time and finishing this four-Test series unbeaten against the world’s 13th-ranked side will give the 12th-ranked South Africans the psychological advantage at the premier event.
Another huge incentive for the SA players is that the national team for the World League tournament will be named shortly after Tuesday’s match and it presents a last opportunity to impress the selectors.
There is another reason, too, that for the SA men the prospect of defeat is unthinkable. The lads in green and gold have not lost a Test match under the banner of new co-sponsors Mugg & Bean, and for a team starved of corporate financial support for so long, they would hate to lose this one in front of what is expected to be a big crowd.
Of course, Malaysia will not even be contemplating the thought of going home without a win ÔÇô particularly as they meet SA on their home turf on 30 June and need to redress South Africa’s mental hold over them. The Malaysian media, too, have been critical of the team’s inability to hold on to to a lead as well as the habit against SA of conceding goals in the last few minutes.
Bearing all these factors in mind, as well as the thrilling spectacles provided by both teams in the first three Test matches, and everything points to a cracker of a Test match.
(From) Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng), Jacque le Roux (Western Province), Gowan Jones (KZN Coastal Raiders), Austin Smith (WP, captain), Francois Pretorius (Northern Blues), Ashlin Freddy (WP), Rhett Halkett (WP, vice-captain), Ricky West (SG), Lance Louw (SG), Jethro Eustice (SG), Jonty Robinson (NB), Clint Panther (SG), Wade Paton (KCR), Tim Drummond (KCR), Nic Gonsalves (SG), Taylor Dart (SG), Julian Hykes (SG), Taine Paton (KCR), Craig Haley (WP), Matt Botha (WP), Pierre de Voux (WP), Miguel da Graca (SG), Brandon Panther (SG).