South Africa have just completed the experimental home series against International Hockey counterparts Austria. The series saw South Africa expose young stars that shone at the Under 21 World Cup amongst a few experienced players. This was an opportunity for coach Fabian Gregory to see who will compete for his team in the upcoming series for the lads.
Game 1 – South Africa 1 – 1 Austria
South Africa kick started the series against Austria with a host of new caps and the signs were already positive for Fabian Gregory as an action packed first test match ended in a draw. It was South Africa who led through Dan Sibbald with a sizzling back stick shot after a great assist from Mondli Dlamini. South Africa’s debutant filled side were all over Austria and had great opportunities through Matthew Guise-Brown, Ross Hetem and Brandon Panther. The vociferous local crowd were silenced by Koerter from a penalty corner and eventually the draw was secured by an outstanding save from Gowan Jones, underlining the strength in depth in the keeper position for SA Hockey.
Game 2 – South Africa 3 – 4 Austria
The second match of the series produced ultimately one of the best test matches witnessed in South Africa in recent history. SA led through drag flick superstar Matthew Guise-Brown but quickly faced an Austrian blitz through Michael Koerper, Alezander Bele and captain Ben Stanzl. Although South Africa created numerous opportunities through Chad Cairncross, Shannon Boucher and Richard Pautz. SA eventually pulled one back with 10 minutes remaining when the highly impressive Keenan Horne was taken out and Guise-Brown fired home a second flick. Horne was at it again as in the 54th minute he set up Richard Pautz for the equaliser. The joy was short lived as the experienced Austrians won it through Julius Heimanns.
Game 3 – South Africa 1 – 2 Austria
South Africa were desperate to bounce back after the defeat in the second test and the pressure told on the young South African side as the team let a lead slip once again. SA led through a great variation at the Penalty corner finished off by Shannon Boucher. SA should have led by more with what would have been the goal of the series when Manson and Pautz teamed up brilliantly before being denied. But as in the previous matches the Austrians started to fight back and were only denied by an outrageous defensive tackle by skipper on the day, Jethro Eustice. Robinson was the next to miss out narrowly before Steyrer netted the equaliser for the Austrians on the stroke of half time. The agony would not end there for the SA Hockey side as they missed a host of chances before being punished into the final chukka by Minar. Tempers flared but Austria held on to secure a massive series win with a game remaining.
Game 4 – South Africa 3 – 2 Austria
South Africa might have lost this hockey test series to their European opposition, but they would desperately look to end the series on a high, for themselves and the crowds that had supported them throughout the series. They were also buoyed by the presence of global superstar Chad le Clos in the crowd. South Africa led 2-0 through a top-class finish from Dalan Phillips and another from drag-flick ace Guise-Brown. Once again though the young South Africans let a lead slip as Austria leveled through Ben Stanzel and Pit Rudofsky. The team however pulled it together in a clear sign that they were starting to gel after a series of getting to know each other. And probably the player of the series for South Africa, Keenan Horne, was the man to net the winner.
The South African lads head off to Cape Town for a couple of test matches against Holland and Ireland (led by South African Olympian Craig Fulton). With some of the experienced players being available South Africa will look to build on the Austrian Series.
All videos are courtesy of Robert Goslett of Enhanced Sports. All images are courtesy of Howard Cleland.