A wait of 428 days finally came to an end for the South African Hockey Men as they got themselves back on the turf for the first time since the worldwide covid pandemic changed the playing surface from Astro to Zoom. The South African’s were in the mood to make some statements on the day and the first of those emerged in the kit they were wearing. Joining in the movement, as displayed by the Protea Women, the SA Men wore a black kit to make a stand against gender-based violence.
The team did not take long to make an on-field statement either. Brandon Panther, playing his first test for South Africa since February 2017 was able to convert his own turnover with a superb reverse stick strike into the bottom right corner. One would quickly become two as Keenan Horne, captain of the SA Hockey Men, was on hand to finish after an error from the Namibian defense and finish easily past DJ Strauss in the Namibian goal.
Estiaan Kriek in the South African Goal was awarded his debut and was keen to make the most of the opportunity, denying a break from Scholtz first and then a very good save from Ernest Jacobs off his right leg. Kriek would not be tested too much more in the game, but he will be delighted that he got that first cap for his country and that he was able to keep a clean sheet in the quarters he played.
South Africa were turning the screw once again as they held onto possession and started dominating territory as well. They eventually managed to add the third on the stroke of half time as a great show and go from Bili Ntuli opened a pocket of space that the dynamic striker was never going to miss. He proved me right superbly. 3-0 up at half time and as far as shaking the cobwebs off it was job done for the men.
Ignatius Malgraff had endured a frustrating first half, but he was able to add his name to the scoresheet. A great drive through the middle created the space before he picked up Brandon Panther and the goal scorer turned provider for Malgraff to run in and finish. Shortly after Rusten Abrahams and Mustapha Cassiem were able to show the understanding built on the indoor court as they combined brilliantly for Cassiem to net his third international goal in his fifth start.
Abrahams was able to get his first international outdoor goal after this, but Richter van Rooyen will be disappointed that he was unable to keep the shot out. The SA Men were able to get one later on as Ntuli finished another chance to make it 7-0. The score line could have been more, but after a year of no action there were some promising statements made by the SA Men. None more important than standing together as one against Gender Based Violence.
The men will wear the limited edition Simunye kit tomorrow again. Fans are encouraged to get involved in the conversation. You can buy a replica Simunye kit from TK Sport SA, where a portion of the proceeds will go to the fight against gender-based violence.
The two teams will lock horns again tomorrow at 15:30. Spectators are not allowed due to the COVID regulations; however, the match will be streamed on the SA Hockey Association Facebook page as well as the FIH Watch Hockey app.
You can also re-watch the match on Facebook here.
Photo: Marcel Sigg