Durban – The South African men’s hockey team lost 3-2 to South American champions Argentina in an explosive third Test match at Queensmead in Durban on Saturday.
The win gives world No 11 Argentina an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-Test series in KwaZulu-Natal, but the African champions made them work very hard for victory.
The clash was marred by a remarkable 10 players being sent to the sin bin – six Argentines and four South Africans. Five players were banished to the bin in one particularly tempestuous 10-minute period during the second half.
Having lost the first Test 4-2 and the second Test 1-0, captain Rhett Halkett, head coach Charlie Pereira and the SA team, ranked 12th in the world, were determined to pull one back and opened the scoring in the 20th minute through an Argentine own goal.
Captain Lucas Rey equalised from a penalty corner four minutes before halftime and his side went 2-1 up through a Facundo Callioni field goal 13 minutes from the end during a period when the musical chairs in the sin bin got particularly busy.
Five minutes later Argentina established a two-goal cushion when Juan Ignacio Gilardi converted from the penalty spot. SA striker Craig Haley pulled one back after a penalty corner three minutes from full-time but the South Americans had done enough for a series-clinching 3-2 third Test win.
The South African side, missing regular captain Austin Smith and other starting line-up players in this series, maybe 3-0 down in the series with two matches to play but Halkett has always said that the five Test matches were about improving game by game – and the general indications are that Pereira’s team, a host of whom are untried at this level, appear to be doing just that.
The fourth Test will be played at the Queensmead Hockey Stadium at 3pm on Monday with the fifth and final Test match at the University of KZN Pietermaritzburg campus at 6.30pm on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in a rare coincidence, South Africa Under-21 played Argentina U21 in the playoff for 11th and 12th places at the Men’s Junior World Cup in Delhi at the same time as Saturday’s Queensmead clash, and once again it was success for the South Americans, to the tune of 4-1. – Supplied by SA Hockey Association