Tokyo Olympics

SA men's hockey team will be 'unprepared' for Tokyo Olympics but remain optimistic

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SA men's hockey team celebrating (Gallo Images)
SA men's hockey team celebrating (Gallo Images)
Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images
  • SA men's hockey coach Garreth Ewing says it's no secret that their side will be unprepared ahead of July's Tokyo Olympics.
  • Due to the coronavirus pandemic, South Africa's scheduled tours and competitions in Malaysia were cancelled.
  • The SA men's hockey team will now play the SA U21 side in a four-match CTM Showdown from Wednesday.

SA men's hockey coach Garreth Ewing admitted that his side would be unprepared for next month's Tokyo Olympics.

The team sealed 5-0 series win over Namibia in May and were set to travel to Malaysia and compete at the Azlan Shah Cup scheduled in June.

Due to the rise of Covid-19 infections in Malaysia, the tournament was cancelled for the second year in a row, with hockey teams scrambling to get some action before the Olympics, starting from 23 July.

The South African Hockey Association announced a CTM Showdown between the Tokyo men's squad and the SA U21 side in Potchefstroom.

The two sides will compete in four matches with Ewing set to test and get his players competitively ready for Japan.

"They're self-motivated and are doing as much as they can. There's no hiding the fact that we'll be underprepared," Ewing told Sport24.

"We're still going to go and will be ready to perform the best as we can."

South Africa is not the only team. World number 4 India are also struggling to get some competitive games under the belt, having not played since April.

"While we're certainly not the only team in the same boat but those top teams train together and play consistently, which is still going to put us at a disadvantage," said Ewing.

READ | After missing out on Rio 2016, SA Hockey hails Tokyo Olympics inclusion 

Currently 14th in the world, South Africa is drawn in Pool B alongside world champions Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands, and Canada.

It's a tough pool with Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Great Britain competing in last week's EuroHockey Championships.

South Africa will open their Tokyo Olympic campaign against the EuroHockey Championships winner Netherlands on 25 July.

Ewing stated that their main objective is to advance through to the playoffs despite a 10th best finish at the Olympics.  

"Our objective is still to get out of our pool and compete in every game," said Ewing.

"We've targeted the games where we want to get results. We're going to go out there and with the most optimistic and competitive mindset we can."

Last month, Ewing named his 16-player squad to travel to Tokyo with the side captained by the experienced 33-year-old Tim Drummond.

Drummond is one of the five Olympians already selected in the squad: Rassie Pieterse, Taine Paton, Clinton Panther and Austin Smith.

Smith, 36, will be competing in his third Olympic Games after featuring at the 2008 Beijing and captaining the side at the 2012 London Games.

Ewing stated that he is looking to lean on the experience in his side as they hope to better their Olympic best.

"I think the team is quite balanced. There are guys who have quite a lot of experiences," said Ewing.

"Four guys have been to the Olympics before and one guy, who has been to three. Those are the guys we'll be leaning on quite heavily, but I'm confident in the younger players, they've got their experience in their own ways.

"It's the best possible side we've could pick, the guys gel together quite nicely."

The CTM Showdown will be four matches from 16-20 June and will be live-streamed on SA Hockey's Facebook page. All games are scheduled to start at 16:00.

Earlier this year, the men's hockey side launched a crowdfunding campaign with the help of a platform called Matchkit.co

The SA men's team is looking to raise between R3.5 million and R5 million to support the team before and during the Tokyo Games financially and have almost raised R350 000 (as of 17 June).

SA men's hockey Olympic squad:

Erasmus Pieterse, Timothy Drummond, Austin Smith, Mohamed Mea, Matthew GuiseBrown, Jethro Eustice, Nduduzo Lembethe, Taine Paton, Nicholas Spooner, Clinton Panther, Samkelo Mvimbi, Abdul Cassiem, Mustapha Cassiem, Nqobile Ntuli, Keenan Horne and Tevin Kok

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