SA hockey men rise in the rankings

2010-03-19 00:00

AFTER the Hockey World Cup in New Delhi, which ended with Australia beating reigning world and Olympic champs Germany 2-1 in the final last Saturday, the world rankings have been reshuffled and SA are now in 12th position from 13th going into the tournament.

SA’s World Cup highlight was their memorable 4-2 win against then world number seven Pakistan two weeks ago. Four superb second-half goals gave them a first-ever victory over Pakistan, long a legendary nation in world hockey, although they had a poor tournament in Delhi.

The victory demonstrated the fortitude of this SA side, who had suffered a ghastly World Cup record 12-0 defeat to the Kookaburras two days earlier, although it must be said in that sort of form Oz would have beaten anyone by half a dozen.

SA skipper Austin Smith, head coach Gregg Clark and Old Hiltonian Dave Viney, the assistant coach, must take a bow for how they led the SA team out of despair and turned it into the wonderful Pakistan win.

There was SA’s frustrating 4-2 and 6-4 losses to then world number three Spain and world number six England after 2-2 at half-time; the southern Africans still let in far too many soft goals and were poor in penalty corner defence and attack.

And SA were just five minutes away from beating India 48 hours after the Pakistan triumph before the epic clash ended 3-3.

SA could have been playing for a seventh-place World Cup finish had they held on against India. An indication of how vital that loss was is that India have now moved from world 12th to ninth.

And the agonising golden goal penalty stroke that cost them ninth place against New Zealand in Delhi also contributed to just the one-place jump up the world rankings for SA.

Their progress over the last three months gives much hope for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October, a semi-final spot a real possibility.

Only three months ago SA were ranked 15th in world hockey, but leapfrogged two places after finishing fifth at Champions Challenge in Argentina following their thrashing of China, in a tournament won by New Zealand, who beat Pakistan in the final.

WORLD HOCKEY TOP 30

1 Australia; 2 Germany; 3 Netherlands; 4 Spain; 5 South Korea; 6 England; 7 New Zealand; 8 Pakistan; 9 India; 10 Argentina; 11 Canada, 12 South Africa; 13 Belgium; 14 Malaysia; 15 China; 16 Japan; 17 France; 18 Ireland; 19 Poland; 20 Austria; 21 United States; 22 Russia; 23 Scotland; 24 Czech Republic; 25 Chile; 26 Egypt; 27 Wales; 28 Italy; 29 Trinidad and Tobago; 30 Switzerland.

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