SA face battle to avoid wooden spoon
The South Africa men’s hockey team will be playing off for seventh place in the eight-team Champions Challenge event in Quilmes, Argentina on Sunday, this after they lost 2-1 to Japan on Saturday in the first round of the playoffs for fifth to eighth place.
SA will now play the loser of the later Canada/Poland match in the battle to avoid eighth place.
A 43rd-minute strike from Toshiro Tachibana sealed the match, which followed Katsuyoshi Nagasawa’s low penalty corner flick in the 18th minute, this after SA captain Austin Smith had won and converted a penalty corner in the third minute, sending a blistering effort into the roof of the net.
Smith also forced a double save from Japan keeper Katsuya Takese from a penalty corner late in the half and the teams went into the break 1-1.
South Africa came close to going a goal behind with Japan’s first serious attack of the second half and would have certainly scored were it not for Rhett Halkett, who showed full commitment to slide in and clear the shot off the line.
Japan’s winner came when Tachibana got ahead of his marker to deflect home a cross from the right before PC ace Nagasawa went close to making it 3-1.
South Africa battled hard in the latter stages and would surely have scored were it not for more goalkeeping heroics from Takese.
Arguably their best chance came through Nic Gonsalves with just three minutes remaining, but his close-range deflection missed the target before Japan ran down the clock to seal the victory.