The contest between Australia and South Africa looked like another David vs. Goliath encounter, with the Kookaburas ranked at the top of the FIH World Rankings and the Africans the lowest ranked team in this Olympic competition.
It did not take long for Jamie Dwyer to be dangerous, penetrating the circle and arriving alone in front of Erasmus Pieterse in the South African goal, who managed the save but conceded a penalty-corner. The South Africans survived the initial flurries of Australian attacks and play became more balanced for a while. The Kookaburas could not do much of their first two penalty-corners and the next chance was at the other end for Marvin Harper, whose tentative shot nearly surprised the Australian defense.
Australia earned a penalty-stroke in the 16th minute after a pinball sequence in the South African circle, the ball hitting sticks, posts and players. Jamie Dwyer cleanly slotted the ball out of reach of the goal-keeper to open the score. The Australians then had a string of near misses; they were unsuccessful on their next two penalty-corners, Kieran Govers could not beat the goal-keeper one on one after receiving the ball alone far behind the South African defenders and they were denied a penalty-corner goal by a successful South African video-referral.
It was once again Jamie Dwyer who finally unlocked the situation, offering a splendid pass to Matthew Butturini left with an easy tap-in for the second Australian goal. Although the South Africans were clearly pushed back on the heels during most of the period, the score was only 2-0 at half-time and the Australians were certainly unhappy with their many wasted chances.
South Africa played well at the beginning of second period, displaying some strong individual skills and swift combinations, but Australia opened an insurmountable break in a few minutes with a couple of penalty-corner goals, first by Christopher Ciriello then by Jamie Dwyer.
Jamie Dwyer completed his hat-trick with ten minutes to go in the match, scoring another penalty-stroke after been taken down by Erasmus Pieterse in the circle. With this goal, Dwyer moved level with Mark Hager as top Australian all-time goal scorer! South Africa ran out of steam in the final stages of the match and could not deal any more with wave after wave of Kookaburas attacks regularly outnumbering their defense. Glenn Turner added a final goal and Australia comfortably bagged the 3 points of the win.
Jamie DWYER (AUS)
On the win: "We knew that South Africa would take a long time to wear down but we had to be relentless for the full 70 minutes and keep the pressure on their backs and hopefully they got tired. It opened up a little bit in the second half and we capitalised with a few goals. Overall it was a pretty good result, but we weren't thorough enough in a lot of areas and we need to improve."
On what areas Australia could still improve : "Scoring, penalty corners, what we do with the ball inside the attacking circle. We had some good opportunities today but we mucked them up a little bit. And our defence just needs to be a bit more solid. So there are a few more areas that we need to get a little better at, but 6-0, you've got to be happy against a quality opposition."
Andrew CRONJE (RSA)
On playing his 100th cap: “I never thought I’d get here when I started off but as the game drew closer, it got very exciting. To do it with this team and group of players and friends is an extremely proud moment. Ultimately, though, we are here to get results and if we get those it will mean more than 100 caps. But we have five or six more games to go and we’ll be focusing on those.
On playing GB next: "The atmosphere here was great and the next match against GB is going to be even better. We did beat them in February and drew a series in South Africa so we are confident. We have to make one or two tweaks but we back our plan and our structures. There won’t be many big changes but we’re looking forward to putting in a big performance."