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Clark out to clinch series

South Africa men’s hockey coach Gregg Clark is quietly confident that his charges will give a good account of themselves in the second of the three-Test series against world number four side Great Britain on Tuesday.

ÔÇ¿The 7pm start at Stellenbosch Astro sees world number 12 South Africa just one match away from clinching the series with a game to spare after their remarkable 5-3 defeat of GB in Cape Town last Friday.

ÔÇ£We took our chances, got a penalty corner, which was just our second success in our last 18 PCs, and scored four field goals so it was a great result,ÔÇØ said Clark after team training on Monday.

ÔÇ£We have discussed not getting ahead of ourselves; GB missed two opportunities just before half-time that might have changed the game, but then that was the story of our 3-1 series defeat to India in Delhi last month, where on balance of play I feel we would have won it had we taken our chances.

ÔÇ£And at Champs Challenge in Randburg two months ago we played really good hockey to lead India 2-1 at half-time in the semi-finals before they came back, while we beat world number nine Argentina for the bronze medal.ÔÇØ

Had SA beaten India in the last-four match in Randburg they would have fulfilled SASCOC’s requirements for a berth in Team South Africa at London 2012. Now they travel to Japan in April/May for a last-chance Olympic Qualifier Tournament which they have to win in order to book a ticket to London.

ÔÇ£In the last two years we have beaten teams ranked above us; Pakistan twice, India, Argentina and now Great Britain so we are getting better and better, as long as we play properly for the full 70 minutes,ÔÇØ said Clark, at 250 the most capped SA men’s player in history.

SA made six changes from the Delhi trip and this bears out Clark’s contention that there is a depth of up to 28 players to choose from. ÔÇ£It’s a competitive squad; the six guys left out played really well in India.ÔÇØ

Contrary to mutterings doing the rounds, the GB team is pretty much the best they have and SA played a team that was as close to the starting line-up as was possible on the day.
ÔÇ£GB played well, their counter-attacking was very good, although they took time to come to terms with our structure,ÔÇØ said Clark. ÔÇ£We are under no illusions, though. Compared to us, GB are an extremely experienced side and will come hard at us in Stellies, but we are also aware we are one game away from winning the series.ÔÇØ

Millions of pounds sterling have been pumped into the GB men’s team in a bid to ensure they medal at London 2012 in July/August. The SA men are making do with a few million rands a year and it is not an exaggeration to say that the SA squad probably spend less time together as a group than any other country in the top 15, perhaps even the top 20.

However, what captain Austin Smith’s men lack in monetary support they more than make up when it comes down to pride and passion for their country’s cause.


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