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SA men’s side aim for fifth spot in Argentina
- Updated: December 1, 2012
After getting over the disappointment of losing 4-1 to tournament form team Malaysia in the quarter-finals, the South African men’s hockey team are setting their sights firmly on coming fifth in this eight-team Champions Challenge event in Quilmes, Argentina.
Hurdle one is the challenge of beating old foes Japan in the first round of the fifth-to-eighth place play-offs on Saturday, writes Jon Cook.
ÔÇ£We have to change our focus and try to end this tournament as high as possible,ÔÇØ said SA head coach Gregg Clark. ÔÇ£Our quality was not good enough [against Malaysia], we made too many soft errors and part of the reason is that the team failed to achieve the right intensity in [their] play.ÔÇØ
SA captain Austin Smith said the team’s game plan was good against Malaysia but too many mistakes and basic errors meant the South Africans didn’t given themselves a chance to compete.
Smith added that the team were still feeling positive, and well they might considering the 2-1 defeat of host nation Japan in the Olympic Qualifier Tournament final in May, which followed a last-minute win over the Japanese in the preliminary round in Japan, and now the 4-4 draw in the Group B match in Quilmes having led 4-1 going into the final quarter.
However, with nine of their London 2012 line-up missing and a host of talented yet new faces making this the most inexperienced team in Quilmes, it is a big ask for the men in green and gold, although world number 16 Japan may not have got over the crushing disappointment of being edged 3-2 by world No7 South Korea in Thursday’s last-eight encounter, this after the Japanese were leading 2-1 in the second half.
Should world No12 side South Africa beat Japan they will play the winners of the Canada/Poland clash for fifth place on Sunday. If they lose the Japan match, SA will meet the losers of the Canada/Poland match in the playoff for seventh place on Sunday.
World No13 Malaysia, who are mentored by former SA coach Paul Revington, take on South Korea in Saturday’s first semi-final with world No10 Argentina tackling No15 Ireland to decide who gets the second berth in Sunday’s gold medal match.
Quarter-final results: Malaysia 4 South Africa 1; South Korea 3 Japan 2; Ireland 4 Poland 0; Argentina 5 Canada 1.