SA hockey aim to beat Japan

2012-12-01 00:00

AFTER getting over the disappointment of losing 4-1 to tournament favourites Malaysia in the quarter-finals, the South Africa men’s hockey team are setting their sights firmly on coming fifth in this eight-team Champions Challenge event in Quilmes, Argentina.

Hurdle one is the challenge of beating old foes Japan in the first round of the fifth-to-eighth place playoffs at 1.30 pm (SA time) today.

“We have to change our focus and try to end this tournament as high as possible,” said SA head coach Gregg Clark. “Our quality was not good enough [against Malaysia]. We made too many soft errors and part of the reason is that the team failed to achieve the right intensity in [their] play.”

SA captain Austin Smith said the team’s game plan was good against Malaysia, but too many mistakes and basic errors meant the South Africans didn’t give themselves a chance to compete.

Smith added that the team were still feeling positive — considering their 2-1 defeat of host nation Japan in the Olympic qualifier tournament final in May, which followed a last-minute win over the Japanese in the preliminary round in Japan, and now the 4-4 draw in the Group B match in Quilmes, having led 4-1 going into the final quarter.

However, with nine of their London 2012 line-ups missing and a host of talented, yet new, faces — making this the most inexperienced team in Quilmes — it is a big ask for the men in green and gold.

World number 16 Japan may not have got over the crushing disappointment of being edged 3-2 by world number seven South Korea in Thursday’s last-eight encounter, this after the Japanese were leading 2-1 in the second half.

Should world number 12 South Africa beat Japan, they will play the winners of the Canada/Poland clash for fifth place at 4 pm tomorrow. If they lose the Japan match, SA will meet the losers of the Canada/Poland match in the playoff for seventh place at 1.30 pm tomorrow.

World number 13 Malaysia, who are mentored by former SA coach Paul Revington, take on South Korea in Saturday’s first semi-final, with world 10 Argentina tackling world 15 Ireland to decide who gets the second berth in Sunday’s gold medal match.

Quarter-final results: Malaysia 4 South Africa 1; South Korea 3 Japan 2; Ireland 4 Poland 0; Argentina 5 Canada 1.

SA team: Austin Smith (captain), Lloyd Norris-Jones, Jacques le Roux (all Western Province); Michael Smith, Ricky West, Clinton Panther, Owen Mvimbi, Miguel da Graca (all Southern Gauteng); Rhett Halkett, Matthew Guise-Brown, Jonty Robinson, Nic Gonsalves, Grant Glutz (all Northern Blues); Lloyd Madsen, Tim Drummond, Taine Paton (all KZN Coastal Raiders); Robin Jones (KZN Inland); Ignatius Malgraff (North West). Coach: Gregg Clark. Manager: Darryn Gallagher.

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