Dec 13, 2023

FIH Junior World Cup 2023 | Top 10 secured for South Africa as New Zealand edged.

A place in the top 10 of the FIH Junior World Cup was up for grabs when South Africa and New Zealand met for another chapter of a massive 2023 sporting story. South Africa had kept their top 10 hopes alive with a victory over Chile while New Zealand edged through against Korea.

South Africa had a golden opportunity in the opening quarter. Caleb Oliphant set Cameron le Forestier through but the South African hitman was unable to find the back of the net with a great run having given him space.

The future Black Sticks struck first when they reacted in the circle. Jayden Brooker had taken out the onrushing striker but Aiden Bax didn’t wait for the call and instinctively fired home. It was a quick second for New Zealand when Sam Lints response to a penalty corner save was smashed home and the score was doubled.

In the second quarter the South Africans continued to search for a way back into the game, making a number of good leading runs, but they were unable to breach the defence, while Nathan Ansell made an important clearance to maintain status quo. New Zealand were have significantly less of the game but were the ones looking more dangerous when they did create and Virisimo had to make a save to deny the Kiwis. 2-0 was the half time score.

New Zealand were awarded a yellow card early in the second half but immediately went and added a third to the score with a base line run from Nicholson inadvertently tapped home by Leruo Dithankanyane. South Africa were immediately offered a reprise when on referral they were awarded a penalty stroke and an opportunity to pull a goal back. Hans Neethling took on Luke Elmes in goal and made no mistake to breathe life into the challenge.

South Africa thought they had pulled a second back when Caleb Oliphant scored, but his goal was chalked off due to a back stick in the build-up. The South Africans then won a penalty corner as the Kiwi discipline started to fade. Jayden Brooker fired it home to bring the deadline back to a one goal deficit, with 15 minutes remaining.

A thrilling game rocketed up a notch when the South Africans levelled. Hans Neethling tried a squeeze shot from the top of the circle. Wilson stuck his stick out and his pivotal touch diverted it past his own keeper to restore parity for the first time since the 11th minute.

Hans Neethling was troubling the Kiwi’s and created another circle entry but was unable to combine with David Tshebi. Both teams wanted the goal to seal the game in normal time otherwise it would be a shootout to decide a place in the top 10, but neither team was able to find the goal and the game went to a shootout.

The first round saw both NZ and SA (Neethling) score, making it 1-1. Both strikers (Neuhoff for SA) scored on round 2 as well, keeping a perfect record in place. On the third round Govender made a save to give South Africa the advantage which was converted cooly by Cameron le Forestier. 3-2. Sam Lintz missed the goal in round four hitting the post and the chance was presented to Fawaaz Kahder to win the game, but was unable to do so missing for South Africa. New Zealand scored to level matters but another chance was available for the African champs to win it, but Knott failed to convert sending the shootout to sudden death.

South Africa though secured the win in sudden death and securing a place in the 9th place playoff. A top 10 finish for the South African boys who had a number of hurdles to overcome in the build up to the tournament!

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