SA tackle Austria | SASCOC - SASCOC

SA tackle Austria

The South Africa men’s hockey team will be treating Friday’s Olympic Qualifier match against Austria as a semi-final, says assistant coach Kurt Cerfontyne.

Returning to the team’s hotel in Kakamigahara, Japan on Thursday evening following a position-specific training session with SA goalkeepers Rassie Pieterse and Michael Smith at Gifu Green Stadium, Cerfontyne said the match was very important to the team.

“China play Japan just before our match so we will know before our opening whistle what is required of us or not in terms of points,” said Cerfontyne. “Irrespective of that, the build-up to the Austria match is the same as if we were going into a semi-final.”

On Friday, China must beat Japan in the 9am SA time match to go through to Sunday’s final. Japan need only draw. In the unlikely event that China do beat Japan, South Africa will then have to beat Austria to qualify for Sunday’s 8am (SA time) final.

If Japan beat China, as is expected, they will face South Africa in the final, hence the need for South Africa to go into the match against Austria with the same intensity had it been a semi-final.

The South Africans cannot afford anything less than a comprehensive all-round performance if they are to take momentum into the final, where the winner’s prize is the last remaining ticket to the London 2012 men’s hockey event.

The Austria match has added significance for Rhett Halkett, who will be marking his 50th Test match in the green and gold. The defender turned 26 on Wednesday, when SA and Japan played to a heart-stopping 3-3 draw in the league stage.

Sunday’s matches will all be live on SuperSport 6 and the SA match can be followed live on Twitter @ FIH_Hockey from 11.30am (SA time).

LOG in brief (all played 4): 1 Japan 10 points (goal difference 20); 2 South Africa 10 points (GD 17); 3 China 9 points (GD 7); 4 Austria 6 points (GD -1); 5 Czech Republic 0 points (GD -12); 6 Brazil 0 points (GD -31).