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SA look to improve

While there is a quiet confidence in their camp, the South Africa men’s hockey team know that they can improve on the performance that saw them beat Brazil 11-1 in the Olympic Qualifier Tournament at Gifu Green Stadium in Kakamigahara, Japan on Thursday.

Captain Austin Smith’s men tackle Czech Republic early on Saturday morning (SA time) and the lads in green and gold are sure to come out firing from the first whistle.

SA started a little slowly against Brazil, not surprising considering they have not played together as a full-strength unit since the Great Britain series early February, and once the players began finding each other they looked a slick outfit.

Rhett Halkett distributed well at outside half, is a solid defender who can play in the centre, has the ability to hit the ball at pace over 70 metres and has a well-disguised slap.

Ian Haley is respected as a quality finisher with great body position in the strike zone, scores plenty at the far post and is invaluable in the drop centre forward role, as he’s able to receive and turn with the ball exceptionally quickly. He is the ideal man to target, get the ball to, hold the ball up and make plays off.

And then in the midfield a player like Jonty Robinson turns on the ball well, is strong on the ball, distributes well, has good vision and can play anywhere across the middle of the park.

These are but three of what head coach Gregg Clark describes as South Africa’s golden generation and gold is all they are interested in winning here in Japan and meet the qualification criteria to be part of Team South African in London.

Andrew Cronje in defence, Marvin Harper and Julian Hykes up front, Tim Drummond, Clint Panther and Wade Paton in the middle ÔÇô one could pick any one player in this SA team and single out match-winners in their own right.

The Czechs were outplayed 6-0 by co-favourites Japan on Thursday, so they will be looking for a much bigger performance Saturday.

But Smith’s men are determined to join Australia, Great Britain, Spain, Pakistan and Argentina in Group A at London 2012 and the Czechs are another step towards winning this Olympic Qualifier Tournament and booking the last ticket to London.


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