The Commonwealth Games was always due to be a learning experience for the young South African team led by Mark Hopkins for the first time. It had been an incredibly tough start but in small patches, there had been signs of the quality for the South African Men. Taking on Canada was about continuing this learning experience but also it was a chance to take the upper hand in the mental game ahead of the World Cup where the two nations are in the same pool.
Canada, who have ranked four spots ahead of South Africa, were definitely caught surprised as South Africa brought an intensity that they had struggled to reach earlier in the tournament. The Men were probably spurred on by the chat from 100m champion Akani Simbine the night before and felt inspired to do the country proud. They did the country proud.
Although the first half proved to be a cagey affair that ended goalless, Canada had produced a few great opportunities in the second quarter but found Siya Nolutshungu in inspired form. The one save he made off his right foot was nothing short of World Class. For a diminutive keeper, he fills the goal immensely well.
South Africa seemed to click up a gear in the second half and that was inspired by an early goal by Indoor and Outdoor dual national youngster Ryan Julius. Julius had the bravery to get his stick on to the end of a superb ball by Gareth Heyns to give South Africa a 1-0 lead.
That was very nearly 2 when an incredibly executed short corner was deflected home by Captain Tim Drummond. The goal was sent upstairs for a review, which took longer than normal, before being reversed and giving Drummond a yellow card for creating danger. The goal has been long debated on social media with various parties giving different opinions, but the overarching fact was that South Africa was on top.
As South Africa camped in the Canadian half it felt like it was only a matter of time before a second was scored, but we would have to wait until the final minute of the game when Canada withdrew their keeper and a quick-thinking overhead by Austin Smith was put into an empty net by Reza Rosenberg. 2-0 was the score and it was a deserving scoreline.
Although South Africa will still play for 9/10, Coach Mark Hopkins will be much happier with the application of his players and will be really happy with the performance of some of his youngsters, who are showing their adaptation is progressing quite smoothly.
South Africa 2-0 Canada
9/10 Playoff – Friday 13 April – 00:30 – South Africa vs. Wales
Next Match – SA Women
5/6 Playoff – Friday 13 April – 06:00 – South Africa vs. Malaysia