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Smith: If only…

National men’s hockey captain Austin Smith has once again rued South Africa’s second-half performances at the Hero Honda World Cup tournament in New Delhi, India.

Speaking after South Africa’s 3-3 draw with India in their final pool game on Monday, Man-of-the-Match Smith said: “Our performance in the second half was not good enough. We had a good game plan, but far too often we did things off the cuff. That resulted in a high number of turnovers, allowing India to attack again and again.

“If one area of our game has been exposed at this tournament it has been our ability to stay focused for the full 70 minutes. I have said it before; goals can be scored in mere seconds. With the umpires encouraging more flow in the game and with the addition of the new self-pass rule the pace has increased dramatically.

“It means that every player has to be ‘in the zone’ for every single moment of the game.”

Looking back at the game, played before a hugely patriotic crowd, Smith said: “We had the opportunity to achieve something special for SA hockey. Australia’s win over Pakistan in the match before ours meant a win would have put us in fourth place in our pool, and a play-off match for seventh-eighth spot. A win would have also sent us leaping up the world rankings table and made our case for going to the Commonwealth Games in October unstoppable.

“I think we can count ourselves lucky not to lose the game when we look back and see how much of the possession India had, and the chances they created. In saying so, hats off to our defensive unit for keeping India to just one goal in the second half.

“Today’s match, like many others at the tournament was full of turning points, many of which revolved around the video referral system. The major discussion point at the after-match press conference was our decision to refer the Indian’s ‘third’ goal. We appealed that the ball had struck an Indian player’s body in their defensive circle, which should have resulted in a penalty corner being awarded to us. It wasn’t however until after India had scored at the other end that umpires would listen to my appeal.

“As the system is still being trialled, it isn’t perfect. I think, and most would agree that we all want the correct decision to be made. If we can use technology to help achieve that goal (within a reasonable time frame) then the more the better I say.”
South Africa now have a few days to gather themselves before they pay New Zealand or Argentina in the ninth-10th place play-off.


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