SA hockey men shade Scotland in thriller

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IOL Austin Smith GALLO IMAGES Austin Smith of South Africa File photo by Duif du Toit

London - The South Africa men's hockey team won an absolute thriller 3-2 against a feisty Scotland in the teams' Investec Cup men's event's final round-robin match at London's national hockey stadium on Saturday.

They led 2-0 at half-time and 3-0 with 17 minutes left.

South Africa's goals in a match-up that was chock-a-block-full of delight at both ends came from captain Austin Smith's drag-flick from his side's second penalty corner, and field goals by Wade Paton - arguably the most consistent, valuable player in the team in recent times - and Pierre de Voux in the 19th and 43rd minutes respectively.

Scotland came back in stunning fashion with two goals inside four minutes thanks to a textbook Dan Coultas bullet flick from the penalty spot in the 45th and the net-buster of the Investec Cup event so far, a breathtaking deflection goal by Wei Adams in the 48th.

Both Scotland goals left SA keeper Rassie “Rasta” Pieterse with no chance.

Taine Paton was in killer form up front, leaving the beleaguered Scotland defenders chasing shadows more often than not, while there were influential performances by older brother Wade, Rhett Halkett, Lloyd “Chuck” Norris-Jones, Lance Louw and Taylor Dart, plus London-based Northern Blues maestro Jonty Robinson.

The arrival of the last of South Africa's Commonwealth Games players, Lungi Tsolekile, meant that three matches into the tournament the African champions finally had the full complement of 18 players - and most importantly seven rolling subs.

The non-professional SA team - a rarity amongst the world's top nations - has been beset by players' unavoidable work and study commitments, leaving them with no chance of adequate time together prior to the Investec Cup event, in stark contrast to opponents England, Ireland and Scotland.

Scotland will kick themselves for missing two golden chances in the first 15 minutes that were created through the sublime stickwork, lay-offs and elusive running of Dutch-based forward Kenny Bain, who exploited the left- and right-hand baselines and channels to great effect until South Africa plugged the holes.

The teams meet again in Sunday's Investec Cup men's tournament bronze medal match at 10.45am (SA time). South Africa have earned a slender psychological advantage but the third/fourth place play-off is anyone's game.

To add further spice, the teams will meet on July 25 in their opening matches of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. - Sapa


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