‘We have a plan’, says SA hockey side coach ahead of S. Korea clash

2014-03-22 00:00

THE challenge is clear for the South Africa men’s hockey team when they take on world number seven South Korea at 2.05 pm (SA time) today in the final round-robin match (live on SuperSport 6) at the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia.

A draw or win will ensure South Africa play for third place tomorrow; defeat will mean playing against Canada to avoid the wooden spoon.

It is a big ask but not impossible for world number 12 South Africa.

World number 13 Malaysia showed the way with a 2-2 draw against Korea in the third round of matches. For head coach Seok Kyo Shin’s Koreans, a convincing victory over SA will go some way towards redressing what has been an unconvincing week.

Apart from the chance to have a second tilt at the Aussies in tomorrow’s final, another winning incentive for Korea is that SA are in their pool at the World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands, in June.

“For that reason alone, Saturday’s match is of massive importance to us,” said SA head coach Fabian Gregory after a busy training session in intense humidity yesterday afternoon. “We are looking to test a few things, and if we get something out of the game ahead of our World Cup clash it will a major confidence booster.”

Korea will look to place SA under pressure, forcing the men in green and gold into areas where they are confident of turning the ball over and launching telling counter-attacks.

“Korea have excellent technical skills, are exceptionally quick and have a good penalty corner attack, but like any team they don’t like pressure,” said Gregory. “We have a plan which we believe will work.”

In today’s other Test match, Australia — already through to the final yet always seeking perfection, play Malaysia. The Kookaburras have been so dominant they are expected to win well, but the vociferous Malaysian crowd spur their team on to greater heights.

Going into today’s matches, Malaysia have scored 15 goals with eight against, while Korea have scored nine and conceded nine, which gives the host country a goal difference advantage of seven. For Korea to reach the final, they will have to beat SA convincingly and hope that, first, Malaysia don’t take a point off Australia, and second, are soundly beaten.

With Korea playing SA after the Malaysia/Australia clash, they will know exactly what is needed.

Everyone here, other than Korea, hope it will be an Aussie/Malaysia final, which will be a treat for South Africans watching on SuperSport, who are unused to seeing a packed house at a hockey stadium, coupled with a remarkable bunch of fans.

Last year the Aussies beat Malaysia in the final, scoring the winner with 20 seconds left — and for that game a horde of fans were turned away at the gates, as the ground was packed to the rafters and beyond.

Tomorrow’s final is live at 2.30 pm (SA time). The fifth/sixth place play-off and the third/fourth place play-off are on SuperSport 7 at 9.30 am and noon respectively.

Log (matches played in brackets, goal difference, points): 1. Australia (4) GD24, 12pts; 2. Malaysia (4) GD7, 10pts; 3. South Korea (4) GD0, 7pts; 4. China (5) GD-8, 3pts; 5. Canada (5) GD-11, 3pts; 6. South Africa (4) GD-12, 3pts.

South Africa: Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng, goalkeeper), Jethro Eustice (SG), Rhett Halkett (Western Province), Robin Jones (KZN Inland), Dylan Swanepoel (WP), Wade Paton (WP, capt), Jonty Robinson (Northern Blues), Tim Drummond (KZN Coastal Raiders), Clint Panther (SG), Lungi Tsolekile (WP), Julian Hykes (SG). Rolling substitutes: Francois Pretorius (NB), Taylor Dart (SG), Owen Mvimbi (SG), Pierre de Voux (WP), Ignatuis Malgraff (Eastern Province), Brandon Panther (SG), Jacques le Roux (WP, goalkeeper).

TV times and channels (all SA time): Sat Mar22: SA v South Korea (2.05 pm SuperSport 6). Sun, Mar 23: 5th/6th play-off (SuperSport 7 at 9.30 am); 3rd/4th play-off (SuperSport 7 at 12 noon); Final (SuperSport 6 at 2.30 pm).

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