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SA water polo girls go down to Kiwis in Kazan

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By Mark Etheridge

The South African women’s water polo side suffered their fourth defeat of the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia on Saturday morning.
Captain Kelsey White’s water warriors went down 11-3 to New Zealand and while it seems a hopeless cause for the SA women, there has definitely been improvement during the course of the championships for the completely amateur side who can’t even boast their strongest side due to personal and financial reasons.
Yes, they’ve lost 22-1, 19-1, 20-4 to Netherlands, Australia and Greece before Saturday but a look at the goal difference shows an exponential improvement of 21, 18, 16 and now eight.
The South Africans were taking on New Zealand for the 13-16th place classification matches. This match would probably have been SA’s best chance of notching that elusive memory but New Zealand were up 2-0 after the first quarter and 4-0 at halftime. South Africa’s best quarter was the third where they went down 4-3 and then the Kiwis pulled ahead with three unanswered goals in the final quarter.
Goalscorers were Kieren Paley, Kim Kay and White who got her third goal of the championships.
Next up for the girls will be a battle for 15th spot against Japan on Monday.
In the last of the open water action it was South African Nico Manoussakis who took 23rd spot in the 25km distance. He clocked 5hr 20min 47.2sec.
Meanwhile the SA men’s water polo team wrapped up their pool section of the FINA World Championships with a 14-3 defeat to Kazakhstan in Russia on Friday.
That saw them ending third in their pool and they now take on Australia in the next stage of the competition.
After beating Argentina in their opening fixture and then going down to world champions Hungary, the South Africans were hoping to put one over Kazakhstan and finish second in their group.
But it wasn’t to be and they looked to be overly nervous as Kazakhstan capitalised and rushed out to an early lead.
While the former eastern bloc nation were trigger-happy and fired off shots at every opportunity, Pierre le Roux’s charges were gun-shy.
The captain admitted as such to Road to Rio 2016: ‘Yup, we started off to slow and a good team like that will expose you. We also missed a few opportunities which put extra pressure on us. The reality is that as an amateur side, we played like amateurs today. So as a team we’re disappointed but will regroup and try again.’
Next up will be Australia for South Africa on Sunday evening.
And it just doesn’t get any easier for the African side: ‘They’re the fastest team in the world with the most dangerous counter-attack. We’re going to have to swim our a*ses off!’
But the experience of taking on the big guns of global water polo is ensuring that not one head will be dropping in the SA camp.
They still have three games, win or lose. The winner of their match against Australia will go through to the quarter-finals, the loser gets to play 9-12 classification play-offs.
So there’s no peace for the wicked? ‘Not a chance, the boys are getting their money worth,’ says Le Roux. ‘Just winning one game already has been a national record for us, now it’s all about the experience of playing against guys we have idolised as kids, so try to learn as much as possible and appreciate the opportunity to be here.’


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