Hockey’s playing fields are not level

2010-03-05 00:00

THE overwhelming feeling was one of anger during and after South Africa’s 12-0 Ozwash by Australia at the Hockey World Cup in Delhi, India yesterday.

Not anger at the SA players. They are as motivated and committed as any team there. Anger because SA will continue to be embarrassed by Oz, who registered the biggest ever World Cup victory.

The playing fields are not level. This is a fact, not the excuse of a one-eyed fan.

The vast majority of the world’s top-20 countries have the crucial finance and government support to give their players enough time to train together and prepare for big tournaments, as well as the necessary structures in place to ensure that teams realise their full potential.

SA does not have that advantage, so while they can come within two goals of drawing with world number six England and world number three Spain in there first two Pool B games in Delhi, they are always going to catch a big one from one of the sport’s heavyweights sooner rather than later.

The ramifications are devastating. Those in SA ignorant of the world game’s dynamics will be quick to write hockey off, while prospective sponsors are not known for aligning themselves with sides thrashed by Oz.

How can SA compete with the best in rugby and cricket, while hockey can at times give the world’s top 15 a genuine run for their money, but are always a game away from humiliation? Money is the answer. SA rugby and cricket have the money to give their players every chance of beating the very best.

Of course, there are many factors involved – not only money – but ultimately that is the bottom line, and without the necessary cash SA hockey is on a hiding to nothing every time.

That said, the Kookaburras were in the most brilliant form, not allowing the South Africans to play and easily creating double the number of opportunities than their dozen goals.

SA had their moments but it was like an inexperienced surfer taking on those gigantic waves in Hawaii’s Waimea Bay — they’re going to catch you many more times than you’re going to catch them.

SA meet Pakistan at 3 pm, live on SuperSport 5 on Saturday.

All is not lost as points against Pakistan — and India on Monday — followed by victory in the all important cross-pool play-off, will ensure that their world ranking continues to rise, after advancing from 15 to 13 after the Champions Challenge late last year.

 

Results: Australia (5) 12 (Luke Doerner 5, Jamie Dwyer 2, Glenn Turner 2, Des Abbott, Fergus Kavanagh, Matt Betturini) SA 0; England 5 Pakistan 2; Spain 5 India 2.

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