It was a pulsating match between the fifteenth ranked South Africa and Canada ranked four places higher in the second group C match up. With the both sides having lost their openers the match had added importance that the losers would face an early elimination from the FIH Hockey World Cup. The South African men also knew that previous coach Gregg Clark was in the Canadian camp, adding an extra bit of spice to the match.
The South Africans started the match like the only team that wanted to win, Canada knew due to goal difference a draw would suit them slightly better and created numerous chances in the first half. The best opportunity of the half came through a superb piece of work by Nic Spooner down the left-hand side before setting up Bili Ntuli who was unable to direct his effort into the goal.
South Africa were also awarded three penalty corners in the half with one superbly saved by David Carter. South Africa will be bitterly disappointed that they were unable to make their penalty corner dominance count throughout the match, but that one was nothing short of a world-class save.
Having been mostly a spectator for the first half, Rassie Pieterse was called into action on the verge of half-time and produced a superb save to deny Scott Tupper. It was a reminder to the African Champions that all the pressure counted for nothing if they couldn’t put a goal on the scoresheet.
The goal however did come for the South Africans in the second half and it was superb and emotional. Bili Ntuli, whose brother Sihle Ntuli is one of the Assistant Coaches, received the ball under immense pressure, created space for himself and shot a beautiful tomahawk into the corner. The Ntuli brother’s younger sister passed away in February and it was clearly an emotional moment for the younger brother who wanted to score at the World Cup in honour of his late sister.
The lead would not last long enough and Canada levelled when their second penalty corner beat Gowan Jones and hit Rhett Halketts foot on the line. The Penalty stroke, rightfully awarded, was dispatched by Scott Tupper.
South Africa would create numerous goal-scoring opportunities late on including four penalty corners but were unable to finish one of them. It was clear at the final whistle that the Canadians were the happier of the two sides knowing they had escaped with a point and that South Africa would have it all to do in the final group game where goal difference is not in our favour.
FIH Hockey World Cup 2018 – Group C – 2 December Results
South Africa 1-1 Canada
India 2-2 Belgium
Group C Standings After 2 Rounds (Goal Difference in Brackets)
- India 4 pts (+5)
- Belgium 4 pts (+1)
- Canada 1 pt. (-1)
- South Africa 1 pt. (-5)
Group C – 8 December Fixtures
13:30 South Africa vs. Belgium
15:30 India vs. Canada
Image courtesy of FIH