SA snatch late equaliser in thrill-a-minute hockey Test

The Sunday Independent - - SPORT -

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

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