CAPE TOWN - South Africa’s Men’s Hockey team produced a spirited performance in an intense return to Olympic competition, but ultimately went down 3-1 to an impressive Great Britain team.
South Africa had not competed at the Olympics for 3 268 days after missing Rio2016, but the emotion of being back on the biggest stage was short-lived when Team GB provided an immediate wake-up call.
Having forced two penalty corners within the first two minutes, Great Britain made the early pressure count with Sam Ward slapping home a strike past the impressive Rassie Pieterse in the South African goal from the edge of the circle.
Lesser teams would have been blown away after conceding so early, but this South African team possesses an enormous amount of grit and character and hit back immediately to level the scores within two minutes.
The South Africans took full advantage after forcing a short corner with Matthew Guise-Brown's drag flick was simply too hot for Great Britain goalkeeper Oliver Payne.
However, unfortunately for the South Africans their lack of major competitive action due to Covid-19 in the build-up to this Tokyo Olympics took its toll the longer the game wore on.
Coach Garreth Ewing’s team remained full of running with their raw pace, particularly in midfield, troubling Great Britain but they could not keep up the intensity for the full four quarters.
Their energy was further sapped in the steaming Tokyo heat when Great Britain put them under severe pressure after South Africa were reduced to 10-men at various stages of the game. A severe blow was when experienced defender Austin Smith, who is the most capped player in the South African team, was yellow-carded in the second half, along with Nqobile Ntuli and Samkelo Mvumbi. Jethro Eustice and Tevin Kok also received green cards.
The ill-discipline had a severe effect as it allowed Great Britain to take greater control of the match through their high-press and speed of passing.
South African goalkeeper Pieterse was doing everything in his power to keep his team in the game with a string of superb saves, particularly from an avalanche of short-corners Great Britain were now enjoying, but Liam Ansell put Britain in the lead again before Jack Waller found the net off a deflection off a South Africa defender that sealed the match shortly before the end.