PSI series versus All Stars

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Match 1 – South Africa lose out in thriller against International All Stars

If indoor hockey needed an advert, the opening match of the 2016 Greenfields International Indoor Series between South Africa and the All Stars was the perfect tonic. In front of a packed and vociferous crowd at UCT Sports Centre, the two teams gathered to produce a game of indoor hockey that would reverberate throughout the PSi History.

Although these do not count as official test matches, there is nothing about them that suggests they don’t count. In the South African side there were first time call ups for Reza Rosenberg, Rustien Abrahams and Wade Paton, while Jarryd Jones was also recalled after an injury. The All Stars featured two new caps with Mo Furste (2012 FIH World Player of the Year) and Timo Wess (German captain at the 2008 Olympic Games, they won Gold) being joined by the likes of Benni Wess and Sjoerd de Wert who missed out in July.

As the game started there was almost a sense of anticipation in the air as the All Stars ran onto the field, but the South Africans have developed a brilliant ability to believe they are equals on the field and in a frenetic paced match Justin Domleo made it 2-0 with a field goal and a penalty corner as SA looked in imperious form. While the combinations of Matt Fairweather and Richard Curtis kept the All Stars at bay it was only a matter of time as they laid siege to the South African goal. To the delight of many fans that goal came from Robert Tigges when a penalty stroke was awarded for a foot on the line.

The All Stars then matched their name as an incredible team move between Austin Smith and Robert Tigges left Nicki Leijis one-on-one with Curtis and he produced a superb little dink over the SA keeper to level the game. He then ran up another attack and produced a fine finish to make it 3-2 to the All Stars, who had time to net one more before half time to make it 4-2 when Mo Furste scored his first to the absolute delight of the crowd. This man is entertainment personified.

The crowd were being treated to exhibition forms of hockey from the All Stars who passed it with incredible pace from Benni Wess, to Timo Wess, from Teun Rohof to Brynn Cleak and from Sjoerd de Wert to Austin Smith. It was everything almost as Simon Martin would say, the unthinkable made possible.

The second half started as a battle between Jethro Eustice and Laurens Goedegebuure who just dismissed each attempt in the way that you dismiss an ex-girlfriends Facebook friend request. But then the crowd were treated to some quick goals as Benni Wess and crowd favourite Robert Tigges got on the field and made it 6-2. South Africa pulled one back through outdoor hockey legend Wade Paton, playing his first ever game for SA Indoor Men.

Mo Furste started living up the experience as he took a short break and allowed one of the Boland Foxes players to play in his place for a couple of minutes, but came back onto the field to net two more goals and secure the first hat-trick of the series. Both goals gave keeper Matt Becker no chance.

The South Africans however showed heart in refusing to lie down and Keagan Robinson first and then deservingly Jethro Eustice both fought back to make it 8-5. The Eustice goal was one that must have taken about 10 deflections but still ended in the back of the net. Another superb team goal came from the All Stars as Tigges and Rohof, two fantastic ambassadors for Indoor Hockey and PSi, did the hard work to let Mo Furste net his fourth. He would also net his fifth while wearing a kitbag from Princess Hockey to give to a lucky fan after Justin Domleo, one of SA’s best players on the night, netted his own hat-trick.

Timo Wess managed to get himself on the scoresheet with a truly fantastic goal and as both keepers were pulled for the final 90 seconds, South Africa got the last goal through their captain Matt Fairweather. The final score 7-11 in favour of the International All Stars, but in truth everyone who got to witness the game was the winner.

Richard Curtis, the South African goalkeeper in the first half: “It was a really competitive game, especially in the first half, we took our opportunities well but they put us onto the back foot. We definitely are on the right track but we need to make sure we cut out the mistakes tomorrow”

Victorious All Stars defender Timo Wess “PSi is an absolutely amazing experience, I have not played indoor hockey in front of crowds like this before. The SA team were really good and we will have to make sure we are stronger tomorrow” and his brother Benni Wess “This is the craziest hockey festival in the World and it’s great to be back. South Africa have improved in the last year and so we look forward to some tough matches this week!”

And finally some closing thoughts from the man that makes all of this happen, Simon Martin, the founder of PSi Hockey “The All Stars have never played together and they started off quite slowly, but they started to grow into the game. It was great to see the SA Team battle in the match in patches and I predict they will definitely get better as the series progresses. The highlight though must surely be the unselfish play from the All-Stars who constantly move the ball and play for each other. It’s a great lesson for our PSi kids”

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Match 2 – All Stars blitz SA Indoor in second match

After last night’s opening game of the series, much was expected for the second game of the Greenfields International Indoor Series. The International All Stars would know each other’s games a bit better have spent a bit more time together. And like any long distance relationship, there is a little bit of adjustment when you see each other. The All Stars were testament to this statement as one game in things started.

If South African hockey has been guilty of one thing in the past (and we have seen it across various teams at various tournaments) is starting matches slowly and often chasing games. Pierre le Roux has managed to cut that habit out as his men have started both games incredibly well and the challenge will be to make sure they keep the intensity up for a full game and specifically when the subs start to roll.

Reza Rosenberg has started to look at home in the green and gold and was a big part of the opening goal combining with skipper Matt Fairweather to set up a delighted Wade Paton to finish. But having found his range in the first game Mo Furste quickly fired home to level the score. A frenetic bit of action saw SA head back up the other side and Matt Fairweather fire in a low penalty corner to re-establish the lead.

South Africa were well and truly fired up and spurred on by a partisan crowd produced the best team goal I have seen them score as Mohamed Mea, Robyn Jones and Wade Paton interchanged quick passes, with a perfection that would have made my grade 8 maths teacher proud, leaving Keagan Robinson the task to tap it into an empty net.

The All Stars were awarded their first penalty stroke of the night, they would receive four in the night, but Richard Curtis pulled out the most incredible save to deny Mo Furste. Teun Rohof though would almost take on the Optimus Prime role of leadership and drove the team forward. His ball to Furste for a deflected goal was world class and deserved a bigger celebration than the passionate Dutchman gave it.

One of South Africa’s best players on the night, spurred on by his 3 month old son watching him play, Justin Domleo then scored a superb solo goal when he robbed Robert Tigges and slalomed his way into the D for a shooting opportunity that left Laurens Goedegebuure with no chance. At this point South Africa were trading blows with the best in the world and deservingly led. The All Stars however had one more gear and when they shifted so did the destiny of the game.

Robert Tigges, Benni Wess (Penalty Stroke & Field goal) & Mo Furste, completing his second hat-trick turned the game on its head in 5 minutes overturning a 2 goal deficit into a two goal lead. The lead was quickly cut back to 1 goal by a great solo goal by Reza Rosenberg to take the score to 6-5 in favour of the All Stars. Richard Curtis had conceded 6 goals but was having a blinder for South Africa, just underlining the superiority the All Stars possessed. There was time for two more goals for the All Stars before half-time as Mo Furste netted his fourth and Benni Wess completed his hat-trick before Mo Mea made a brilliant goal line save to keep it at 8-5 at half-time.

At half-time the All Stars received words of wisdom from their coach / MC / dishwasher and kit man John McInroy as well as Cyril the Squirrel, who was adamant that he be given the next penalty stroke. These words seemed to work as the All Stars emerged as a truly All Star side in the second half. Okay, they didn’t, but a superb goal by Justin Domleo certainly did as following his goal the All Stars implemented a game management that the All Blacks would be proud of.

Sjoerd de Wert got his first goal of the series from a penalty stroke, before a Wess brother special was set up by Timo for Benni to deflect home his fourth. South Africa were producing chances as frequently as SANRAL produce eToll bills, but were converting them as much as the public pay these eToll bills. As South Africa continued to toil for a gap, Nicki Leijs created his own in setting up fan favourite Robert Tigges to score a great goal.

Austin Smith, the other crowd favourite, then played a centre role as a great run from him set up an easy finish for Nicki Leijs, who still made sure of it by roofing it superbly. SA then had their own penalty stroke which was denied by Goedegebuure and Moritz Furste would go smash away another two, one which was almost the Scarlet Johansen of goals in that it was so easy on the eye.

If there were two men that deserved a goal for their displays tonight it was Rohof and South African hockey superstar Austin Smith, and the latter got his to the delight of the crowd. There was still time for Wade Paton to get a yellow card from umpire Peter Caulder for what can be confirmed as “being too pretty” a violation in terms of article 13.4.2 of the Indoor Hockey rules.  I didn’t check the reference.

As the game fizzled to its conclusion both teams pulled of their keepers to give Justin Domleo some practise in shot stopping, but it was SA who headed up the other side and Jethro Eustice got the consolation goal in a humbling defeat. 15-7 the final score in favour of the All Stars and a 2-0 lead in the 4 match series.

“The game was tougher than last night, the All Stars definitely came firing tonight. I was really happy that we went ahead at the start as in the past we often chased games from the start. It’s a step in the right direction.” Shared Justin Domleo. And on the fact that his son was there “It was so amazing having them here to support me and it makes me incredibly happy!”

“The game was a bit similar to yesterday when we started slowly again, but we got back in the game and started to chip away at it” shared Dutch World Cup winner Sjoerd de Wert “I am delighted to get on the scoresheet as it was a goal for me for the series, to match my goal in Durban last year!”

“That was the fastest game of indoor hockey I have ever umpired” Peter Caulder, one of the umpires for the series, “The All Stars is insane. The skill level and intensity is absolutely amazing!”

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Match 3-  SA Show heart in improved defensive display

The third match of the Greenfields Indoor Series started much like a blind date, in that it was incredibly apprehensive compared to the opening two games. The South Africans demanded a better defensive display, the All Stars demanded much of the same and the crowd demanded more entertainment and prizes from Princess Hockey.

What would be a recurring theme for the night would be the South African heart in defence that would see the ball cleared off the line an absurd 8 times by one of the defenders. It was Jethro Eustice who did it first as he denied Moritz Furste a 12th series goal.

Benni Wess, who surely could become an Olympian in 100m sprints, then found space down the right hand side, rounded Matthew Becker and laid it off for Furste to get that 12th goal that had been denied by Eustice. South Africa for the first time this series had not turned up the heat to start a game and quickly found themselves under siege from the All Stars, but defended as valiantly as a Liverpool supporter defending their lack of Premier League titles.

The extraordinary German trio of Benni, Timo Wess and Furste were combining outstandingly well with Robert Tigges and the All Stars looked like a team who were destined to win. A third goal-line save by SA led to a slightly debateable penalty corner. There was however, no debate in the goal as Moritz Furste fired it home. The likeable German made it a third hat-trick of the series when Namibian Brynn Cleak, having a great game, set him up for his easiest of the night.

At this stage it was a little bit like a game of piggy in the middle that you played with your older brother and little sister, where she was constantly in the middle and you kept the ball away from her. On a side note my sister is now a speech therapist and changing the world, I believe it was down to the upbringing she had at home.

There were some great saves from Becker denying Austin Smith and Teun Rohof, but Brynn Cleak would get one from a penalty corner to make it 4-0 before Benni Wess, who would genuinely put the energizer bunny to shame, went tumbling into the goal knocking it over, but Cyril was quickly on hand to make sure everything was okay.

South Africa would pull a goal back through an astonishing individual bit of skill from Jarryd Jones, the kind of skill that delighted the crowd. After more goal line saves, this time from Mo Mea, Rusten Abrahams, who played in the PSi last year for the Gryphons, chipped Laurens Goedegebuure but it was too high for the goal. The youngster is a true illustration to many of the kids present about what you can achieve if you work hard.

On the verge of half time we heard MC and ex-head coach of the All Stars John McInroy comically praise Benni Wess as he lost the ball. “It’s a real pleasure to watch Benni Wess in action, just not that time.” There was time for Brynn Cleak to get his second of the night before half-time and leave it at 5-1.

Everyone’s favourite PSi Ambassador Robert Tigges got on the scoresheet early in the second half. Tigges, I know you read these, so if you live in SA for five years you can represent us at the 2021 Indoor world Cup. #JustSaying. The crowd would understandably love that.

Reza Rosenberg has taken to the SA Indoor team incredibly well, showing incredibly quick hands and a form that would not be out of place in the All Stars side, he set up Robin Jones but Laurens made a great pad save to keep the gap at 5 goals. The 7th for the All Stars was coming and you have to watch it in the highlights video later. After keeping the ball at the back for a while Timo Wess passed through to Dutch World cup winner Sjoerd de Wert, who passed it to Tigges before unselfishly setting up Furste for his fourth on the night. Tigges would himself get a second through what can only be described as champagne hockey from a penalty corner.

The two teams traded chances through Austin Smith, Reza Rosenberg, Rusten Abrahams, Teun Rohof and Brynn Cleak as the game started slowing to its conclusion. But there was time for an absolute bullet of a corner from skipper Matt Fairweather gave SA a consolation goal. As SA grew in confidence towards the end of the game there were narrow misses for Jarryd Jones and Jethro Eustice, but there was time for a final goal for Mo Furste which Mo Mea almost kept out but the Momentum of the Moment was Moving. #MoLife

The game ended with a remarkable series of Teun Rohof shots being saved by Mo Mea on the line from three successive penalty corners and it ended at 9-2 in favour of the All Stars, who in turn had sealed the series 3-0 ahead of the final game at UCT tonight.

“It’s been an amazing experience so far, there is a great atmosphere here and it’s been incredible.” Said Olympic gold medallist Timo Wess “The vibe here is absolutely extraordinary and it’s amazing”

“Each PSi experience gets better” crowd favourite Teun Rohof “I have been really impressed with Brandon James and Keenan Horne in previous series and Reza Rosenberg in this one. There is some great young talent in South Africa”

“It felt like we were chasing the whole game and that makes it difficult to control the game when you are so far behind” South African defender Robin Jones “we were better on the defence today but we need to believe in our abilities to get a result”

“These guys are loving being out there” said MC John McInroy of the All Stars “They are legends of the game and it’s a privilege to watch these guys. It is the indoor hockey equivalent of watching Neymar, Mess and Ronaldo. They are a great advert for the game! Long live PSi!”

Words and images supplied by Tyron Barnard.

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