New Zealand kept their tournament hopes alive by defeating South Africa by just two goals at the Bong Bong racecourse in New South Wales, while Australia marched onwards towards the final, beating the United Kingdom by 21-13.
Last time New Zealand and South Africa met it was in the World Cup third/fourth play off and on that occasion South Africa narrowly defeated New Zealand. This time though the New Zealand side played brilliantly, with their ladies section winning by 2 goals and Shane Hill putting in a masterful performance for the New Zealand men to hold the South African men to a draw
The United Kingdom put in a very strong performance in going down to the Australians by just 8 goals; New Zealand lost to the Aussies by 14 goals on day 1 of the tournament and the UK have suffered some big defeats to the Australia over the last couple of years. The UK men, who lost by five to the South Africans yesterday and are often seen as the weaker part of the UK side, went down by just two goals. The UK ladies, who beat the South African ladies by 5 yesterday went down by 6 goals to a very strong Aussies ladies team. The UK men won the final chukka but overall the Australians were just too strong for them and it now seems even more likely that they will make the final on Sunday.
The UK team seemed pleased with their performance today after being slightly disappointed by themselves for losing to South Africa on day 1, a match in which they made some easy mistakes. Jason Webb, who has received his first UK cap at this tournament, said he felt the UK were now so close to being on the same level as the Australians.
New Zealand defeating South Africa actually means that any team could still make it to the final. Australia are probably through anyway but a win again South Africa tomorrow would guarantee it. If, on the other hand, South Africa win it would give them two victories in the group stage and their chances of progressing would also be pretty high. A South Africa win is not impossible, South Africa pushed Australia to the wire in the World cup semi final two years ago before ultimately losing by 3 in the last chukka. On that occasion they did have the magical Charl Du Plessis at number 1 and his absence tomorrow could cause them problems.
Ultimately, a lot could rest on the UK versus New Zealand match, if the UK win then there could be three countries all with one win each and then it would go down to goal difference. The possible permutations are as follows:
UK and South Africa win then South Africa and Australia go through
NZ and SA win then three teams (SA, NZ and Australia) have two wins each, so two will through on goal difference
NZ and Australia win then NZ and Australia go through
UK and Australia win then Australia go through and the second place team is decided on goal difference
At present the goal differences are as follows:
New Zealand -12
UK – 11
South Africa +1
So the UK will have to beat New Zealand and hope that South Africa lose by a few goals to Australia in order to get to a better goal difference. Last time the UK played New Zealand it was in the World Cup semi final and the UK shocked New Zealand by beating them by 5 goals. New Zealand will be out for revenge but the UK will be desperate to record their first win of the tournament so it could be a very exciting match.