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Image credit: Kym Clayton Sport Photography

Tokyo beckons as South Africa's continental success continues

August 18, 2019

The African Hockey Road to Tokyo 2020 men’s competition went right to the wire as South Africa (World Ranking:14)  and Egypt (WR:20) battled to the last minute of the final game to decide who would be representing Africa as continental champions.

Egypt were looking for a first ever title and, with 14 minutes left on the clock, there was a growing sense among the spectators that they were about to see history being made. Ahmed Alganaini had given Egypt the lead with a well taken goal on the stroke of half time and his team were looking the sharper of the two teams for the first three quarters.

Unfortunately for Egypt, South Africa proved that they can never be written off and a hat-trick from Spooner within a four minute burst of activity in the final quarter meant that the top ranked team would again be crowned continental champions and qualify for their fifth Olympic Games. Egypt did score a second, through Ashram Said, but with only seconds left on the clock as the match restarted, time was just not on the North African's side.

The women’s competition was a far more straight forward affair as South Africa women (WR:16) continued their 100 per cent success rate at these championships, winning all four of their matches comfortably.

With nearly 1,000 caps shared between just six players – Celia Evans (157), Dirkie Chamberlain (237), Lisa-Marie Deetlefs (262), Lilian du Plessis (130) and Quanita Bobbs (126) – the experienced and talented South African team were always going to be the team to beat and so it proved.

The action at Stellenbosch University over the six-day tournament was fast and furious as six men’s and five women’s teams played for the all-important title of African champion and the right to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. 

In their opening game, Zimbabwe women (WR:66) showed that they were determined to make their mark as they lost by just a narrow 2-0 scoreline to the highest ranked team. South Africa scored in the 14th minute but then faced a staunch defensive performance led by Zimbabwe captain Mary Campbell which meant they could only seal the victory with a second goal in the 57th minute.

Despite a good performance by Petro Stoffberg in the Namibia (WR:40) goal and some resolute play from captain Margreth Mengo and the Namibia midfield, South Africa’s second match saw them hit the back of the net five times, with three goals coming in the last quarter. 

Victories over Kenya (WR:45) (3-0) and Ghana (WR:32) (6-0), sealed the title for South Africa. Second place was taken by Ghana, whose only loss was at the hands of the champions. Zimbabwe played well above their rankings and finished in third place despite being the lowest ranked team in the competition.

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For most of the men’s competition Egypt and South Africa were a class apart, both winning all their matches up to the decisive final day. 

Kenya (WR:48) will be rueing late goals in two of their matches as they lost 3-2 to Ghana (WR:36) and 3-2 to Namibia (WR:68), conceding goals late in the game. Ghana enjoyed a good tournament, finishing third after they beat Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe (WR:61).

Top scorer in the women’s competition was South Africa’s Lilian du Plessis with four goals. In the men’s event, Austin Smith was top scorer with 10 goals, all from penalty corners.

Final standings
Women

  1. South Africa
  2. Ghana
  3. Zimbabwe
  4. Kenya
  5. Namibia

Men

  1. South Africa
  2. Egypt
  3. Ghana
  4. Kenya
  5. Zimbabwe
  6. Namibia

#RoadToTokyo #RoadToTokyo2020

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