South Africa’s men secured third place in the Investec London Cup with a solid 3-0 win over Scotland at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre on Sunday.
A brace from captain Austin Smith and one from Daniel Sibbald inflicted the damage, however the scoreline belies a determined effort from the Scots who held their opponents at bay for long periods.
The South Africans started strongly with Jonty Robinson launching a 60-yard crossfield aerial to Lloyd Norris-Jones who fired high on the reverse, and followed with another low shot past the right post seconds later.
The Scots also found gaps in the African’s defence, Ross Stott threading a ball into the circle to Willie Marshall who deflected wide.
Smith marshalled from defence, smothering Scottish assaults and spraying probing passes to his forwards. Team mate Ignatius Malgraff showed a clean pair of heels, bursting from his own half and playing a one-two with Miguel Da Grace by the Scottish circle, but his goal attempt was blocked and went wide.
Mid-way through the half Gavin Sommerville in the Scottish net produced a triple save, the second from a ferocious reverse strike.
At the tale of the half momentum lay with the Scots, who won a succession of three penalty corners, the hooter sounding after the third was awarded, but the Africans bundled the attempt away.
South African coach Fabian Gregory fired his lads up and they come out for the second half renewed, battering their opponents winning three penalty corners in a matter of minutes. Sommerville saw off the first two threats from Smith., but the captain persisted and his third flick ruffled the net over Scot’s right shoulder.
The highlanders held off two further penalty corners, but the African’s persistence was rewarded again as a superb through ball unlocked the defence, sending Sibbald one-on-one with the keeper and he calmly flicked past the shoulder of the on-running Sommerville.
Smith added the third on 64-minutes with another flick that was too strong for Sommerville’s stick.
Speaking after the match, Scottish captain Chris Nelson said: “I think today was not as good as our previous games, we were hoping to build each game.
“Today it shows, it has been a bit of fatigue and lack of concentration and we gave away a few sloppy goals.”
Pleased with his team’s performance, Smith said: “It was far better than the first three games.
“Even though we won yesterday it was not very convincing, but today I think we thoroughly deserved the three points.
“It is late in the tournament and it always takes time to get going. It was far more controlled, guys knew where they needed to be and everything looked a bit better organised.”