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Rain wins the day

The notoriously unpredictable Highveld weather again had the final say on Wednesday as the South African men’s hockey team’s second and final warm-up game against Japan ahead of Saturday’s opening Champions Challenge fixture was abandoned at half-time.

Another big rainstorm swamped the Randburg Hockey Stadium on Wednesday night. South Africa were leading 1-0 at the time. This follows Tuesday night’s washed out practice match against Malaysia, which saw the sides deadlocked at 1-1 after 20 minutes when the heavens opened.

Head coach Gregg Clark’s pre-tournament training camp that began last week is now over, and the 24-player squad will be cut to the tournament 18 when the team is named Thursday morning. South Africa’s opening match is against Poland.

The crucial Champions Challenge men’s tournament takes place at Randburg from 26 November to 4 December and the Africa champions need nothing less than an appearance in the final if they are to be part of Team South Africa at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

SA are in the ÔÇ£Pool of DeathÔÇØ, with eight-time Olympic Games gold medallists India,┬á as well as Belgium, who have already qualified for London, and the difficult proposition that is Poland in their opponents.

South Africa’s Pool A matches at Randburg are against Poland on Saturday (5pm), India on Sunday (5pm) and Belgium next Tuesday (5pm). Next Thursday sees the teams go into the quarter-finals, with the semi-finals next Saturday and the gold medal match next Sunday, 4 December.

Pool B features Canada, Malaysia, Japan and Argentina. Like the Belgians, the South Americans have also already qualified to be one of the 12 teams in the London Olympic Games next August.

The 24-player SA squad that will be cut to the final 18 comprises seven from KZN Coastal, six from Southern Gauteng, five from Western Province, four from Northerns Blues and one each from Eastern Province and Amatole (Border).


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