Namibian men make history in Malaysia

Namibian players celebrate with the Sultan Nazrin Shah trophy. Photo: contributed

Namibia’s indoor hockey men’s side made history on Saturday when they beat South Africa 3-2 on penalties to win the Sultan Nazrin Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia.

It was the first major international trophy that they had won, while it was only the second time that they had beaten their southern African neighbours in 35 test matches, with SA winning 26, while seven were drawn.

After a cagey opening, Namibia went on the offensive, with a David Britz cross cleared, before Fagan Hansen put Namibia ahead when he fired home a throughpass by Brynn Cleak at the end of the first quarter. 

South Africa fought back, creating some opportunities, but Namibian keeper DJ Strauss brought off two fine saves to deny Dal Langford, and Namibia went further ahead when Ernest Jacobs launched an attack and passed to Cleak, whose shot deflected off SA’s keeper into the net. 

SA stepped up the tempo in the third quarter, winning two short corners in quick succession, but Namibian reserve keeper Richter van Rooyen kept his line clear, while he also saved well from a Keegan Hezlett attack. 

SA’s pressure, however, paid off when Hezlett opened their account with a field goal that went high into the net, while SA drew level early in the fourth quarter when their captain, Jethro Eustice, winning his 50th cap, scored with a diving shot in the box. 

Namibia came storming back, creating several opportunities in a frantic final quarter, but they could not convert their chances. 

Namibia won a short corner, but Cody van der Merwe’s shot was cleared, while Van der Merwe then turned provider, putting Dylan Finch clear in the box, but his shot was saved. 

In the final stages, a diving shot by Matu Kavikairiua was saved, while a short corner shot by JP Britz was also saved, as the teams battled it out to a 2-2 draw, with the result that the match had to be decided on a sudden death penalty shootout. 

Steven Paulo gave SA the lead, but Van der Merwe immediately equalised before Namibia’s young reserve keeper Richter van Rooyen brought off a great save against Hezlett to give Namibia the advantage. 

JP Britz scored to put Namibia 2-1 ahead, and although Dal Langford drew SA level at 2-2, Cleak scored the winner to give Namibia a dramatic 3-2 victory. 

It was a stunning victory and sweet revenge for Namibia after SA beat them 5-3 in their pool match three days earlier. 

Namibia and SA qualified for the final after finishing first and second respectively on the log on 12 points each, after both teams had won four and lost one of their pool matches.

New Zealand, meanwhile, finished third after beating Australia 6-4 in the bronze medal match. 

Namibia striker Fagan Hansen won the player of the tournament award, while SA’s Steven Paulo was the top scorer with 14 goals, followed by Hansen and Jett Leong of Australia with 11 goals each. 

Namibia’s women’s team, meanwhile, finished fifth overall after drawing their final pool match 2-2 against Australia on Friday morning. 

Holly Gilbar gave Australiathe lead with a field goal after nine minutes, but Azaylee Philander immediately equalised, scoring from a short corner. 

Marcia Venter restored Namibia’s lead with a field goal, but Australia once again equalised with a field goal by Brooke Welsh, as the two sides battled it out to a draw. 

The women’s final also went down to the wire, with South Africa beating Switzerland 4-3 on a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw at full time. 

Australia finished third after beating Malaysia 2-0 in the bronze medal match.

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