A tough week in Egypt has ended in the most satisfying ways for the South African U21 sides as both the Men and Women can officially call themselves champions of Africa.
The South African Women took on Southern African neighbours Zimbabwe in the women’s final. They had to deny two early penalty corners for Zimbabwe but were also unable to make a slew of corners count as despite their dominance on the field the game remained nervy at 0-0. The two teams played in the 2016 Junior Africa Cup in Windhoek and South Africa ran rampant in a 10-0 victory. This was a far better, organized and heartened performance from the Zimbabweans as they foiled and frustrated the South Africans superbly.
But eventually the telling blow was landed by the South Africans. A world class press from Tamlyn Kock forced the turnover and her shot was superbly guided home by Jesquinique Coltman. That would prove to be the only goal of the game as a nervy ending couldnt stop the South Africans from claiming the title as best Junior African Womens team for the 7th time in a row.
The SA Men took on the old enemy in Egypt, having already beaten them in the group stage but also looking to avenge the final defeat suffered in 2016. South Africa looked in charge from early when a James Flint penalty corner gave them a lead taking advantage of a penalty corner award that the Egyptians were very frustrated by.
It took almost 20 minutes but the South Africans added to the scoreline. A good high press saw the ball fed wide to Leruo Ditlhakanyane whose reverse stick shot was deflected in off an Egyptian stick. South Africa, who had only conceded one goal in the tournament so far, were on their way to sealing a fifth Junior African Cup title.
But Egypt showed remarkable tenacity and fight to breath life into their challenge. They pulled one goal back after reacting to a poor push at a penalty corner and then almost unbelievably levelled three minutes later. A speculative ball into the circle found the striker open at the back of the D and his shot was superb. There was no more goals though and a shootout would be needed.
After both teams scored three from their five shootouts it went to sudden death. Hans Neethling, who had scored in the initial shootout stood up again and fired it home to give South Africa a 4-3 lead. Reece Govender had the opportunity to win the title for South Africa with a save, which he never had to make. He forced the striker out wide who then shot wide of the goal to seal a title for the Southern Africans and a first double in almost 10 years.
Congratulations to our SA U21 Women and Men who are both African Champions after two amazing finals against Zimbabwe and Egypt respectively! #JAC2023 pic.twitter.com/aSw9EZo4xo
— SA Hockey (@SA_Hockey) March 16, 2023