South Africa slumped to their second straight men’s hockey defeat at the Commonwealth Games when they went down 4-0 to the world’s No 1-ranked side, Australia, writes GARY LEMKE on the Gold Coast.
It was truly a game of two halves, as the old cliche goes, although in this instance, a game of four quarters. South Africa more than held their own in the first 30 minutes, but for the final half (two quarters) there was only one team on the astro at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre. And it wasn’t the men in white shirts.
‘Our team talk was about keeping things tight and we succeeded in that but conceded in the last few seconds of the first chukka,’ said captain Tim Drummond, who himself cleared off the goalline from two of Australia’s nine penalty corners.
‘This team showed pride and character in front of a great Australian home crowd in a fantastic hockey setting. I really think that things could have gone either way, had we taken our chances. Part of international hockey is to soak up the pressure and then respond. But now we have a massive game against the Kiwis tomorrow [Sunday], a game we have to win.
‘There’s a short turnaround. We’ll go back now and jump into the ice baths and then tomorrow have a relaxed morning before we get together to prepare for the match,’ Drummond added.
Early on, South Africa had looked a different team to the one that lost their opening Pool A match 4-2 against Scotland. There was an intensity from the start and their pressure almost paid quick dividends. A penalty corner saw Gareth Heyns almost find the bottom right-hand corner, but was saved off the line.
As one would expect, Australia came roaring back but were unable to create many clear-cut chances and it was South Africa who broke away and attacked down the left, and the cross almost found a diving Ryan Crowe. The first quarter had flown past in a flash and 0-0 certainly didn’t flatter the underdogs.
The trend continued through the second quarter and Ryan Julius did well to make his way into the Australian circle and the heavy traffic, but his pass was blocked and cleared. With things goalless into the last 30 seconds of the half, Australia attacked and after a scramble in the South African circle, Trent Mitton made it 1-0 with only 16 seconds left.
Australia were visibly emboldened by the advantage and started the third quarter strongly. Two penalty corners came in quick succession in the 35th minute, the first cleared off the line by Drummond and the second by the right hand of ‘keeper Gowan Jones.
Another smart right-hand save from Jones from a penalty corner kept the Aussies out, but it seemed just a matter of time before the home team would double their lead. To the rallying cry of ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi,’ another penalty corner produced another save from Jones. To suggest he was South Africa’s Man of the Match is not stretching the point.
By now though, the world’s No 1 team had clicked into a different gear and despite a solid block, Jones was unable to prevent Mitton getting his second in the 39th minute with the follow-up. With blood in their nostrils, Jeremy Hayward made it 3-0 in the 43rd minute from the Aussies’ sixth penalty corner.
By the end of the third quarter the hosts had totalled 14 shots, converting only one of their seven penalty corners and by now it was about damage limitation for South Africa, ranked 15th in the world. But the floodgates had opened and the fourth goal came in the 50th minute through Aaron Kleinschmidt.
Photo: South Africa’s Austin Smith in action against Australia by Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA