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SA take on Japan in a bid for fifth spot

World No12’s South Africa play world No16 Japan in the first round of play-offs (or placement match one) for fifth to eighth places in the World League Plate semi-final in Malaysia on Saturday.

Said head coach Charlie Pereira: ÔÇ£We are looking forward to playing Japan and having a shot at fifth place, which would be a good place to finish,ÔÇØ said on Friday.

The match will be live on SuperSport 5 and HD4 from 8.45 am (SA time). All the tournament matches on Saturday and Sunday including the semi-finals Saturday and the gold medal, bronze medal and Plate matches will be live on SuperSport, reports Jon Cook.

ÔÇ£The practice game and recent results against Japan have gone our way,ÔÇØ said Pereira.┬áIndeed, SA beat Japan 4-1 in a pre-tournament clash and few will forget the epic 2-1 win the lads in green and gold accomplished in Japan just over a year ago to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Should SA beat Japan, they will tackle the winners of placement match two, either Malaysia or Pakistan, in the Plate final (for fifth place) Sunday at 11am (SA time) on SuperSport 7 and HD4. Should they lose to Japan, they will play in the seventh/eighth play-off match at 8.45am Sunday live on SuperSport 7 and HD4.

Pereira agreed that it has been a tough few days, as SA ended fourth in Pool B after drawing 3-3 with world number four England, a match they should have won, before losing 6-4 to world 13 Malaysia and 6-2 to world five Pakistan. Then in Thursday’s quarter-final, SA lost 2-0 to world 10 and Pool A winners Argentina ÔÇô the absence due to illness of captain Austin Smith and a half-fit Jonty Robinson a huge blow.

Captain for the Argentina match, Smith’s deputy, Rhett Halkett, said: ÔÇ£Austin is feeling a fraction better and will hopefully be cleared for Saturday’s game. Jonty probably should not have played as he was not 100%. Similar to Austin against Pakistan the other night.ÔÇØ

Said Pereira. ÔÇ£Our lack of financial resources, which hamper our preparation, make it very frustrating ÔÇ£We cannot compete against the countries that play professionally for the simple reason that we do not train as much, and that is the bottom line.ÔÇØ

The coach said in the match against Argentina, SA had some strange calls from the Italian umpire that made the task that much more difficult, given that SA were already two men down. ÔÇ£In one instance in the second half, Lloyd Norris-Jones was sin-binned for 10 minutes for a first infringement, just when we were getting back into the game. This put the brakes on our pressing game as we had to pull back and consolidate.ÔÇØ

Pereira said on the day Argentina were the better team, goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse making some great saves. ÔÇ£The SA players put in a tremendous effort but we have work to do if we are going to break into the top 10 of world hockey.ÔÇØ

Halkett said it was a tough loss ÔÇ£but credit must go to Argentina who produced a professionally efficient performance. I was very proud of our disciplined performance and definitely thought we deserved a goal. However, it was not to be.ÔÇØÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿ÔÇ£Japan will not be an easy game as they have also improved as the tournament has progressed. We do have the psychological edge over them but we will ensure that we do our homework in order to give ourselves the best possible fitting to win that game and contest for fifth place.ÔÇØ

SOUTH AFRICA

Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng), Gowan Jones (KZN Coastal Raiders); Austin Smith (capt, Western Province), Francois Pretorius (Northern Blues), Rhett Halkett (vice-capt, WP), Lance Louw (SG), Jethro Eustice (SG); Jonty Robinson (NB), Clint Panther (SG), Wade Paton (KCR), Tim Drummond (KCR), Nick Gonsalves (SG), Taine Paton (KCR); Julian Hykes (SG), Craig Haley (WP), Pierre de Voux (WP), Miguel da Graca (SG), Lloyd Norris-Jones (WP).


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