It’s tight at the top

Brynn Cleak won the man of the match award against Hong Kong China. Photo: contributed

Namibia’s indoor hockey men’s side suffered their first defeat at the Sultan Nazrin Shah Indoor Hockey Cup in Malaysia yesterday, but are still well-placed to reach the final of the tournament. 

Namibia lost 5-3 to South Africa, who in turn lost 5-4 to Australia, leaving all three teams at the top of the log on nine points each, with South Africa (+25 goals) holding a slight lead on goal difference ahead of Namibia (+23) and Australia (+19). 

In yesterday’s encounter, Nicholas White put South Africa ahead after five minutes when he deflected a cross into the net, while Steven Paulo made it 2-0 with a short corner goal at the end of the first quarter. 

South Africa continued to attack in the second quarter with Paulo having a shot cleared off the line by JP Britz, but Namibia also came close when Cody van der Merwe put David Britz clear, but his shot was well saved by SA’s keeper. 

Fagan Hansen finally opened Namibia’s account with a short corner goal in the third quarter, but Paulo immediately replied with another short corner goal to put SA 3-1 ahead.

Paulo completed his hattrick to put SA 4-1 ahead at the start of the fourth quarter, but Van der Merwe reduced the deficit to 4-2 after scoring from a throughball by Dakota Hansen. 

SA once again struck back with a counter-attack goal by Dal Langford, but Namibia had the final say when JP Britz scored from a short corner in the final minute. 

It was the 34th encounter between the two nations, with South Africa having won 25 matches and Namibia one, while eight matches have been drawn.

In yesterday’s opening match, Namibia thrashed Hong Kong China 22-0, after leading 7-0 at half time. 

Brynn Cleak, who won the man of the match award, led the way with five goals, while the other scorers were Fagan Hansen (4), Delron Handura (3), JP Britz (3), Cody van der Merwe (2), Dakota Hansen (2), David Britz (2) and Ernest Jacobs (1). 

In other matches yesterday, Australia beat New Zealand 6-4,  Malaysia beat Hong Kong China 24-0, and New Zealand beat Malaysia 2-1. 

SA, Namibia and Australia now lead the log on nine points each, followed by Malaysia (6), New Zealand (3) and Hong Kong China (0). 

Namibia’s women, meanwhile, continue their campaign today when they take on South Africa at 03h30 Namibian time and New Zealand five hours later. 

South Africa and Switzerland currently lead the log on six points each after winning their opening two matches, with SA just ahead on goal difference. 

They are followed by Australia and Namibia on three points each, with Australia in third position due to a better goal aggregate. 

Malaysia and New Zealand are both on zero points after two matches. 

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