The South African national men’s team lost its first match of the FIH Hockey World League Semi-Finals on Sunday evening when Ireland beat the host 2-0.

Ireland has lost only one match in 2017 thus far and even though it was a close game all around, the visitors looked very sharp and in control most of the time.

The halftime score was 1-0 to Ireland after a goal by Matthew Nelson in the ninth minute. South Africa ended the second chukka with a flurry of opportunities. In the minutes leading up to halftime the home team got three penalty corners and came very close to scoring, but the Irish goalkeeper David Harte showed why he is known as one of the best keepers in the world.

Shane O’Donoghue scored the second goal for Ireland from a penalty corner. This was probably the big difference on the day: Ireland scored a goal from its three corners, while the South Africans could not convert any of their five penalty corners.

Captain Tim Drummond afterwards said that the team will keep on working to improve all aspects of the game. “It was a tough day, but we did create chances and we can take positives from the match. We pride ourselves on our penalty corners, we do have a really strong battery and we will work on it as always. Our defence is also crucial. It is important to build confidence and keep on improving.”

Drummond added: “We would like to thank the fans for coming out. It really does make a difference and we hope to see them again.”

South Africa conceded some 50 turnovers and Ireland 45. Circle penetrations were also very similar with 25 to 27. South Africa had 51% of the possession.

Ireland, coached by former South Africa national player and last year’s FIH coach of the year Craig Fulton, is ninth on the world rankings and South Africa 15th.

South Africa’s next match is on Thursday against Germany at 18:00. The men are in the same group as Ireland, Germany, Egypt and Belgium.

Saturday the South African women’s team drew 0-0 with India. South Africa is in the same group as Argentina, USA, India and Chile. The SA women’s next game is on Wednesday against Argentina at 18:00.

All matches in the Hockey World League Semi-Final are played at the Wits Hockey Astro in Johannesburg. Twenty of the world’s best men and women’s national teams will take part in these Hockey World Cup 2018 qualifiers from 8 - 23 July.

Tickets for the event can be purchased online at http://hockeyworldleague.nutickets.co.za/HWL

All matches are broadcasted live on SuperSport. 

Be sure to follow the teams on Twitter at @SA_Hockey_Men and @sawomenshockey