Team SA take their hockey sticks to Olympics

Naoto Shiokawa of Japan in action in the match between Japan and South Africa during day twelve of the Hockey Olympic Final Qualifying Tournament at Gifu Prefecture Green Stadium on May 6 2012 in Kakamigahara, Japan. (Getty)

Naoto Shiokawa of Japan in action in the match between Japan and South Africa during day twelve of the Hockey Olympic Final Qualifying Tournament at Gifu Prefecture Green Stadium on May 6 2012 in Kakamigahara, Japan. (Getty)

The South African men went unbeaten in their six matches and held off a fighting Japanese outfit to book their ticket to London.

The women’s side won an earlier qualifying tournament in Delhi, India in February.

After going into half-time locked at 0-0 against Japan, the South African men came out firing after the break, soaking up the pressure in a thrilling second period.

The South Africans opened the scoring with a moment of individual brilliance by Thornton McDade 11 minutes into the second stanza.

McDade dribbled through the Japanese defence before rounding the goalkeeper and tapping home into an empty goal to give his side the lead.

Lloyd Norris-Jones stretched with gap 16 minutes left to play through a counter attack after Japan failed to convert a penalty corner.

Norris-Jones fired his back-handed shot at the Japanese keeper who deflected the ball before going in.

Japan hit back with a goal by Kenji Kitazato and piled the pressure on South Africa, who had struggled defensively throughout the tournament but were far better in the final.

Goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse made several crucial saves to keep South Africa in the lead, thwarting the Japanese attack as he helped his side secure the last available place for the London Games in July.—Sapa

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