After six days of action at the North West University, Ireland and South Africa were the last two standing with an opportunity to win the inaugural FIH Hockey Nations Cup and earn an invite to the FIH Hockey Pro League for 2023/24.
South Africa couldn’t have asked for a better start as they took the lead through a wonderful strike from Dayaan Cassiem. He received a brilliant touch and put one in with incredible velocity to give a delighted crowd something to cheer. They almost had a second moment to cheer when the ball got through to Ngubane, but his snatched shot produced nothing. As South Africa pulled back slightly Ireland filled the vacated space and almost found a leveler as Walker’s shot hit Kriek before hitting the post. 1-0 at the first break.
Ireland won the game’s first penalty corner and their reliable man Shane O’Donoghue fired home a cracker to level the scores! South Africa had an immediate chance to level but Jacques van Tonder fired his penalty corner wide. Ireland had another penalty corner, but it was cleared off the line by Jethro Eustice showing his cricketing pedigree.
South Africa thought they had the lead when Dayaan Cassiem produced a sensational run and found a pocket of space but managed to miss when he maybe thought he could have scored. But they didn’t have to wait long as Dayaan put his team back ahead with a reverse stick strike into the bottom right corner. A half-time lead of 2-1 that was built on ruthlessness in the attacking third delighted the crowd.
In the second half South Africa scored a goal through a remarkable finish by Tevin Kok, arguably the player of the tournament. Lobbing it over the opposition keeper and stretching the lead to 2. Ireland however slowly but surely started to work their way back and pulled a goal back through Shane O’Donoghue. A proper rocket of a shot. And with just 10 seconds left of the third quarter John Mckee saw his deflected shot level matters for Ireland.
The South Africans saw Kriek make an important save and the South Africans led a ruthless counterattack that saw Dayaan Cassiem taken out and a penalty stroke awarded. His brother Mustapha Cassiem stood up and took the chance finishing past Fitzgerald perfectly. The South Africans then held on to confirm the victory, the title of champions of the FIH Hockey Nations Cup and a ticket to the FIH Pro League in 2023/24.
FIH Nations Cup – Final Standings
1 – South Africa
2 – Ireland
3 – Korea
4 – Malaysia
5 – France
6 – Japan
7 – Pakistan
8 – Canada