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South Africa bounce Czechs in Japan

[img_assist|nid=3561|title=Unchecked|desc=SA’s Tim Drummond is chased by Czech Republic’s Martin Babicky, Justin Reid-Ross in the background- Stanislas Brochier|link=node|url=http://www.pushhockey.co.uk/content/images/2012/sas-tim-drummond-chased-czech-republics-martin-babicky-stanislas-brochier|align=right|width=180|height=120]Japan: The South Africa men’s hockey team chalked up their second win of the Olympic Qualifier Tournament here Saturday when they ground out a 6-2 victory over the Czech Republic after leading 4-1 at half-time.

The ugly, ill-tempered affair did not do justice to the most beautiful of spring days and sin-bin cards did little to cool tempers. Justin Reid-Ross took his tally to six in the tournament with a field goal and penalty corner, while field goals from Tim Drummond, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Lance Louw and Thornton McDade completed the SA scoring. Martin Seemann and Stepan Bernatek netted field goals for the Czechs. 

“They tried to break down our free-flowing style and it was disappointing they didn’t come into the match with the same mind-set,” said SA captain Austin Smith. “It was messy but I am pleased we only gave away one yellow card, a decision I feel was debatable anyway. We created plenty of opportunities, out connections were slicker but against a team playing defensive hockey it’s not easy to break that down.

Smith said he was disappointed the Czechs scored two goals. “We made poor mistakes but our defensive organisation is good and as long as we keep control I don’t see us conceding too many goals.” 

And China on Monday? “They look organised and are playing very well but I back our structure against any of the teams here so I am confident going into the game.”

In the third minute an inspired Andrew Cronje through-ball to Julian Hykes was followed by a strong Ian Haley snap shot, which brought the first PC. Reid-Ross made no mistake, his drag-flick ricocheting off keeper Filip Neusser’s glove (1-0).

In the seventh the disruptive Czech defenders couldn’t stop Hykes from threading his way through for Drummond to finish (2-0). Haley then set up Wade Paton whose reverse-stick rocket flashed over the crossbar.

With SA playing all the hockey, the match threatened to get ugly as delaying tactics negated the free flow of the game and a Czech was consigned to the sidelines, but completely against the run of play Seemann did very well to pull a goal back (2-1).

Lloyd Norris-Jones got in two shots and Hykes ones as SA regained composure, and with seven left in-form SA skipper Smith set up Norris-Jones for a great goal, the striker running intelligently into space before finishing with aplomb (3-1). Martin Babicky shot just wide at the other end before Smith teed up for Lance Louw to nail SA’s fourth after the left-side defender had stolen up the left flank unnoticed (4-1).

With two left SA keeper Rassie Pieterse saved from Stepan Bernatek before first wave Jonty Robinson ran down the Czech’s first PC, prevent potent drag-flicker Tomas Prochazka from making his presence felt. On half-time SA’s second PC was comfortably saved by Neusser.

Five minutes after the changeover the Czechs grabbed a rare bite of possession and Bernatek buried his shot into the backboard (4-2). Norris-Jones played intelligently to earn SA’s third PC but again it was saved. With 20-odd minutes left, both sides squared up toe to toe and tempers threatened to boil over into something extremely serious. Vilem Topek was sin-binned. 

Drummond won possession and SA came close to scoring their fifth as the entire Czech team were massed in the defensive third. More sin-bin cards were dished out. Undaunted, SA kept playing the hockey and Reid-Ross scored from out left, further underlining South Africa’s massive advantage in entries into the strike zone (5-2).

Five from time the Czechs won a hotly disputed PC – and then another – as tempers again flared to breaking point, and the slip left to Bernatek was palmed away by Pieterse. Then Hykes pressured a Czech into error and strike partner McDade finished superbly (6-2).

SOUTH AFRICA LINE-UP
Goalkeeper: Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng).
Defenders: Andrew Cronje (Western Province), Justin Reid-Ross (Northern Blues), Lance Louw (SG), Lloyd Madsen (KZN Coastal Raiders).
Midfielders: Jonty Robinson (NB), Clinton Panther (SG), Austin Smith (capt, WP), Tim Drummond (KCR), Wade Paton (KCR), Taine Paton (KCR).
Strikers: Ian Haley (WP), Marvin Harper (KCR), Lloyd Norris-Jones (WP), Julian Hykes (Amathole-Border), Thornton McDade (SG).
Rested: Goalkeeper Michael Smith (Witwatersrand), Rhett Halkett (NB). 

SA MATCH PROGRAMME
April 26: South Africa 11 Brazil 1; April 28: South Africa 6 Czech Republic 2; April 30: vs China (11.30 am SA time); May 2: vs Japan (9 am SA time); May 4: vs Austria (11.30 am SA time); May 6: Classification matches (5/6 places); (3/4 places); final (8 am SA time).

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