It would have been a tad unjust to consider South Africa as a pushover given their recent international exploits – they had produced the biggest shock of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics when they stunned mighty Germany in a brilliant come-from-behind 4-3 win.
The green-and-yellow brigade had lapped up a 3-0 lead against another powerhouse, the Netherlands at the Tokyo Olympics before they made heavy weather of that to go down 3-5. Of course, they were smarting from a 1-11 annihilation at the hands of the Dutch in their maiden Pro Hockey League game, and their morale must have been at a low ebb when they squared up against Olympic bronze medallist India, who were teeming with confidence after their emphatic 5-0 win over rapidly-improving France. It is pertinent to point out that the Garreth Ewing-coached South African outfit were a tad depleted in defence with the unavailability of Tokyo Olympics captain Tim Drummond and Matt Guise-Brown for their Pro Hockey League campaign.
Like the first game against France, Harmanpreet Singh opened the scoring off a short corner and the stage was set for the two newest entrants to the national side – Jugraj Singh and Abhishek to make a statement. Jugraj, who has been tormenting the defences of domestic teams with his lethal drag-flicks, doubled the lead, scoring his maiden international goal in only his second international match and quickly adding to his tally a few minutes later. Abhishek, – the newest member of the Indian forward line, racked up his maiden international goal after promising so much against France. The second quarter will be etched in the memory of Jugraj for many more years to come as he slammed a stellar hat-trick – not many have managed to achieve such a feat in their only second international game.
Gursahibjit Singh, who hasn’t quite hogged the limelight in the presence of talent-filled forwardline on the international stage, will feel a lot better after his two goals. Dilpreet also scored a brace while Mandeep scored once as India ran roughshod over the South Africans. The home side did churn out two goals in the third quarter via Dan Bell and Richard Pautz – something they can build on for their upcoming games against the Netherlands and India later this week.