SA snatch late equaliser in thrill-a-minute hockey Test
SOUTH Africa and France played out to a thrilling 2-2 draw in Johannesburg yesterday to open the four-match Test series. Both sides are gearing up for the Hockey World Cup in India and are using this series to fine tune their final preparations.
For South Africa, captained by Keenan Horne, it was also a celebration at two ends of the experience spectrum. Long-time servant of the game Lance Louw celebrated his 100th cap while Peabo Lembethe earned his first.
The opening quarter featured a lot of ball possession by France with South Africa offering moments of excitement through Dayaan Cassiem and Nic Spooner.
Although France produced three shots in the opening quarter, not one was on target as both teams struggled to build momentum.
However, as the game progressed there were better synergies being shown and connections being made.
In the second quarter France upped the pressure and immediately found themselves trailing. South Africa employing a counter-attack plan that was highly effective. Spooner won the ball in the middle of the park, drove through the centre and laid it off to Julian Hykes.
The 36-year-old finished with a superb tomahawk strike to give the hosts the lead. It was a lead that only lasted four minutes as Victor Charlet fired home the first penalty corner of the game. It would remain 1-1 at halftime with France having the slightly better game.
France then took the lead early in the fourth quarter. Man of the Match Tom Genestet, playing in his 168th Test match, drove in from the right and fired a slap bullet past Gowan Jones into the top left corner.
This is a new South Africa though, with them soaking up pressure and launching superb counter attacks with Hykes, Spooner and Dayaan Cassiem coming to the fore.
It was no surprise that the equaliser involved the trio. With Spooner distributing the ball from midfield it worked its way up to Hykes who turned on top D. Thieffry saved the shot but Cassiem was there to prod home the equaliser. – Own Correspondent