Contributed by: Aaron Richard
A well-drilled South African Lions team posted a comfortable win over IC debutants China at Royal Park this afternoon. The Red Demons were held scoreless in the match, whilst the Lions' running brigade combined to finish the game with 12 individual goal-kickers in a 20.26.146 final score line.
South Africa are stronger, faster and more skillful than we last saw them in 2005, with players such as Motuba, Hlomela, Mbhalo, Sethibe and Phakedi moving the ball very well by hand and foot and Horn and Toy Prinsloo providing effective targets up forward.
The Chinese for their part were gallant in defeat, with the majority of their team having only begun playing the game very recently.
The Lions hit hard in the first quarter, having the game well under control by the first break. Quick use of handball out of the centre set up repeated forward attacks, with the Chinese struggling to contain the faster South African side. Ruckman Ren Xiaoyu stood tall to take a few marks in defence for China, but by quarter time the Lions lead by forty points.
The second quarter saw some impressive set plays from South Africa, with penetrating kicks from Julian Horn and Jayce Zidel hitting targets up forward and Thabiso Phakedi very strong across the halfback line and roving the packs out of the centre. The rugby experience of some of the Chinese players showed in some strong gang-tackling, but their skills under pressure weren't strong enough to gain effective possession.
Samuel Sethibe impressed in the third quarter with good use of the ball through the center, as did stalwarts Benji Motuba and Mtutuzeli Hlomela. Ruckman Bryan Mitchell was convincing in winning the taps, giving the strong running men opportunities to set up plenty of attacks.
In the three quarter time huddle, coach Jason McCartney commended the Lions on their increased work rate in that term, with plenty of intensity in laying smothers and putting pressure on the Chinese when in possession, as well as good use of handball.
With captain Hlomela rested in the last quarter, the Lions started the term with a few missed chances, including two spectacular shots on the run from Simphiwe "Stone" Mbhalo, both of which only scored a behind. Lions' full-forward Lwazi Jawe took a hanger in the goal square, only to miss on the angle. However, the Lions steadied and added another six for the quarter, with Prinsloo again a solid target in front of goals.
For the Chinese, Pi "JP" Jiaming collected a few possessions in the final term, running out a solid four-quarter effort in a tough game. The Chinese had their share of the footy, but lacked the skills and experience to use it when it counted under pressure, although they had a few runs into the forward 50 when they could have managed a score.
In the post-match gathering, long-time international footy stalwart Brian Dixon congratulated the Chinese on playing out their first-ever IC match, noting that the South Africans were on the wrong end of similar big score lines back at the 2002 cup. The pool matches pose some challenging encounters for the Chinese, with a strong USA and Denmark to come. However, having accounted for India in a practice match last weekend they would be hoping to post at least one or two wins in the seeding rounds.
While it's hard to compare via memory, a few spectators were heard to say the Chinese in 2008 are a stronger side than the South Africans were back when they began in 2002. In six years' time we may also see a very different Chinese outfit on the pitch.
For South Africa, after two comfortable victories the real test will now come against Denmark on Saturday, however at this point the Lions will go into the match favourites. The main worry for the Lions will be a lack of height - while their running game is working well, they haven't yet had to match up against a bigger, stronger side and injuries to a few key position players could make it very difficult to contain the likes of the US Revolution.
|5.10 (40)||1/4||0.0 (0)|
|10.16 (76)||1/2||0.0 (0)|
|14.20 (104)||3/4||0.0 (0)|
|20.26 (146)||Full||0.0 (0)|
Goalkickers: South Africa - T. Prinsloo 5, Sethibe 3, Hlomela 2, Motuba 2, Xhasa, Sobetwa, Sambo, Jawe, Mashigo, Zidel, Horn, R. Prinsloo
Best South Africa - Motuba, Hlomela, Sethibe, Mbhalo, Phakedi, Xhasa.
China - Pi Jiaming, Yang Lunjia, Ren Xiaoyu, Zhang Aimin, Li Cheng, Tao Lei.
Coach Jason McCartney addresses the South Africans
World Footy News