SA men's hockey on Ireland tour
26 June 2012
The South African men's hockey team departed for Ireland on Monday for a three-week, eight-match tour, with coach Gregg Clark declaring himself reasonably happy with the preparation his team will have undergone by the time the London Olympic Games get under way on 27 July.
"By the time we get to London, our prep would have been fairly good given the position we faced seven months ago just after Champions Challenge in Randburg," he said on Sunday when asked whether he was confident that all the boxes were being ticked in respect of preparation for the Games.
Back then, South Africa needed to finish at least second in the tournament to ensure a place at the London Olympic Games, according to the creteria set forth by the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).
After they finished third, that left the team with only one chance to qualify for the Games, by winning the Olympic qualifying tournament in Japan. They did it to ensure they would join the women's hockey team in London.
Three-week, eight-match tour
The South African team's Ireland tour will include games against world number 16 Ireland, number 27 Wales, and number 22 Scotland in the Celtic Cup in Northern Ireland from 28 June to 1 July.
Ireland and world number 11 Belgium, another team that will be in action at the Olympics, will provide the opposition on 3 and 4 July.
From 8 to 11 July, South Africa will take on London Olympics qualifiers and world number 10 India twice and another Olympic qualifier, fifth-ranked Spain, in Santander.
Olympic reserves Clint Panther and Jacques le Roux will be on tour with South Africa's 16 Olympic players, while world-class South African umpire John Wright, for whom London 2012 will be his fourth Olympic Games, will be officiating in the matches.
Clark said a lack of funds for world number 12 South Africa has resulted in a fractured four-year cycle in terms of game time and camp time compared to the rest of the world's top 20 sides, and particularly when compared to the 11 other teams that qualified for London ahead of the South Africans, who will be the lowest-ranked side at the four-year showpiece, the pinnacle of the sport.
"Ours is a very different environment from other teams that will be in London," he explained, "but given our circumstances we'll have ticked as many boxes as is possible in terms of preparation, and I believe there will be enough done for us to challenge strongly."
Clark, who holds the South African record with 250 test caps, went to the 1996 Atlanta Games and the Athens Olympics in 2004 as a player, but missed out on Sydney 2000 when the South African men, who had qualified for the Games, were prevented from going by the then National Olympic Committee of South Africa (Nocsa).
The London Games will be the second Olympics he attends as a coach. He was previously coach of the men's team in Beijing in 2008.
SOUTH AFRICAN TEAM
Austin Smith (capt), Andrew Cronje, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Ian Haley, Jacques le Roux (all Western Province); Tim Drummond, Marvin Harper, Lloyd Madsen, Taine Paton, Wade Paton (all KZN Coastal Raiders); Lance Louw, Thornton McDade, Rassie Pieterse, Clint Panther (all Southern Gauteng); Justin Reid-Ross, Rhett Halkett, Jonty Robinson (all Northern Blues); Julian Hykes(North West)
SOUTH AFRICAN TOUR FIXTURES
(South African time)
Celtic Cup (Lisburn, Northern Ireland): vs Ireland (19:00, 28 June); vs Wales (13:00, 30 June); vs Scotland (11:00, 1 July)
Dublin, Ireland: vs Belgium (18:15, 3 July); vs Ireland (18:15, 4 July)
Santander, Spain (times tbc): vs India (8 July); vs Spain (9 July); vs India (11 July)
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