SA, who had a goal disallowed in each half, led 2-1 until two minutes from full-time, when Egypt won a hotly disputed penalty corner, Amr Ibrahim’s drag-flick equaliser flying high into the net.
The ensuing penalty shootout was agonisingly tense and it was the Egyptians who prevailed, the outcome leaving the men in green and gold devastated.
A hat-trick from Gaspard Baumgarten and a goal apiece by Hugo Gestetnet and Charles Masson bettered the strikes of Yang Ao and Wei Meng as France beat China 5-2 in the final.
France, the best-prepared, best-funded nation at WLR2 Cape Town, went through their six tournament matches with a 100% win rate.
A top three finish at Hartleyvale would have qualified SA for the World League Round 3 series, which comprises 16 of the world’s top nations in two events featuring eight teams apiece. The top four finishers from each of the two WLR3 events qualify automatically for Rio.
One Rio 2016 qualification route that is recognised by the International Olympic Committee and the International Hockey Federation (FIH) remains open. The Africa continent championship in Egypt in October will be a must-win for SA.
Sunday’s bronze medal match provided the typical cut and thrust, hot temper and controversy associated with a derby that is contested by Africa’s arch-rivals. SA dominated much of the game but it wasn’t reflected in the scoreline. Both sets of defenders were called on to make decisive interventions in this end-to-end affair.
An early Tim Drummond goal was disallowed due to a technical infringement and in the 11th minute a Pierre de Voux square-pass-left found fellow SA striker Julian Hykes, whose shot fired past the post. In the 12th Egypt won a disputed penalty corner and Hamada Atef made no mistake for the opening goal (1-0). Hardly 60 seconds later (13th minute) SA were back on level terms when tournament top goalscorer (six goals), captain Austin Smith, flashed a textbook PC drag-flick high into the net (1-1).
Just 36 seconds from the end of the first of the four 15-minute chukkas that make up an international hockey match, Hykes got off a goal-shot but keeper Mohamed Gamal was up for the challenge.
Four minutes into the second chukka, Mohamed Hasan tested SA keeper Rassie Pieterse and in the 20th Egyptian Ahmed Elnaggar successfully ran down a Smith PC bullet. The first wave defender appeared guilty of breaking early but the protestations were ignored.
In the 24th a Keenan Horne shot on the fly almost realised a spectacular goal and it was perhaps an omen that South Africa were not going to have their day.
Five minutes after half-time - and the scores still one apiece – SA first wave PC defender Pierre de Voux showed immense courage to block a full-blooded shot. Soon after, SA built beautifully around the back and a Dylan Swanepoel one-two with Hykes almost brought a goal.
The crowd erupted in the 51st minute when gutsy striker Natius Malgraff put everything into getting a pass across from the right to De Voux, who made no mistake to put SA 2-1 up, much to the elation of team-mates and the home fans.
Then SA striker Shannon Boucher had a goal disallowed, the ruling being that he had struck the ball from outside the strike zone, although many did not agree.
With time winding down, Egypt threw everything in search of the equaliser and despite some outstanding interventions from the SA defenders and goalkeeper Pieterse, Ibrahim’s match-changing 58th minute PC equaliser came as SA were less than two minutes away from winning bronze.
Rassie Pieterse (GK), Dylan Swanepoel, Austin Smith (capt), Rhett Halkett, Matt Guise-Brown, Clint Panther, Tim Drummond, Pierre de Voux, Natius Malgraff, Keenan Horne, Shannon Boucher. Rolling subs: Gowan Jones (GK), Dan Bell, Robin Jones, Jet Eustice, Dan Sibbald, Taine Paton, Julian Hykes.
Gold medal: France 5 China 2
Bronze medal: Egypt 2 South Africa 2 (Egypt win penalty shootout 3-2)
(5th/6th places) Switzerland 2 Czech Republic 0
(7th/8th places) Azerbaijan 4 Belarus 2;
Semi-finals: France 5 Egypt 2; South Africa 0 China 2.
5th/8th cross-pool playoffs: Azerbaijan 2 Czech Republic 8; Belarus 1 Switzerland 5.