South Africa and Netherlands faced off for the second time in Potchefstroom for the FIH Pro League on Saturday Night. South Africa had been heavily defeated in the opening meeting between the two sides earlier in the week and were desperate to give a better account of themselves this time round.
A feisty first quarter ensued with the teams competing with his other manfully and several tackles going in that were likely to be felt tomorrow morning. Despite both sides battling for supremacy in the middle of the park there were limited goal mouth opportunities. Unfortunately for the South Africans they were undone with a second left of the opening quarter as miscommunication from a cross field overhead saw Dan Bell take the ball away from Estiaan Kriek and Thijs van Dam would make no mistake of the gift.
Netherlands would add their second of the night halfway through the second quarter as Thierry Brinkman, the Dutch Skipper, made a wonderful leading run and deflected superbly past Gowan Jones. The Dutch were starting to dominate the possession as the half progressed, but the South Africans were keeping them at bay. And their determination was superbly rewarded as Le-Neal Jackson pulled one goal back through a superb drag flick from the South Africans penalty corner.
South Africa were awarded a golden opportunity to pull level when Mustapha Cassiem was taken out and a penalty stroke was awarded, but the opportunity was missed as Nic Spooner found the cross bar, much to the European delight. The sucker punch would follow shortly afterwards as with a minute remaining in the half the Dutch found space out right and the cross was easily put home by Dennis Wamerdam to give the team a 3-1 lead at the half-time break.
South Africa created the first meaningful chance of the second half with a superb counter led by Dayaan Cassiem and Bili Ntuli, but the wonderful build up lacked the end product, and the opportunity went astray. Kriek was then called on to make a good save shortly after from a reverse stick shot before a wonderful deflection again was sent narrowly wide. South Africa had another opportunity on the breakthrough the younger Cassiem but again the end product was lacking. South Africa were far more competitive in this game, but the Dutch threat was consistently looming and was rewarded when the South African defence failed to clear the lines much to the delight of Warmerdam again.
Netherlands struck for the fifth time in the game and the first of the final quarter with their first penalty corner since the first quarter. Tim Swaen the goalscorer. It should have been six shortly after but Terrance Pieters hit the upright after being put through one-on—one with Gowan Jones. Another South African half-chance was missed shortly afterwards which led to the Dutch punishing some scrappy defending from the South Africans. 6-1 the score.
Although it came with just 8 seconds left it was the South Africans who would have the last laugh of the game as a shot by Dayaan Cassiem was saved and Matt De Sousa reacted to the rebound with a superb drive into the bottom left corner. 6-2 the final score.
The South Africans are on a steep learning curve in the FIH Pro League, but the evidence tonight showed that they are willing students of the game.