IT was a case of mixed fortunes for the South African men's and women's hockey teams at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India over the weekend as they played for places in the medal playoffs.
Both teams lost closely contested matches against teams ranked above them, but for head coach Giles Bonnet's world number 12 women's side their 3-1 defeat to world 11 India on Saturday didn't prevent them from qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time.
However, for the world number 12 SA men under head coach Gregg Clark their 2-1 loss to world number four England Sunday prevented them from equalling the feat of their women's side and earning an historic first semi-final spot.
The SA men needed to beat England for a place in the semi-finals, while the SA women needed to ensure they didn't lose by a four-goal margin to India to book a place in the last four, which guarantees them a berth in the bronze medal match even should they lose to an on-song world number seven New Zealand on Monday.
The other women's semi-final is between Australia and England. But Bonnet's team are not even contemplating defeat.
"The players are all fit and preparing mentally and tactically for the semi-final against New Zealand," Bonnet said Sunday afternoon. "They are excited at the prospect and really looking forward to the challenge. This is a significant moment in South Africa's hockey history as the SA women's team build towards the London 2012 Olympic Games. "
SA men's mentor Clark said his team were gutted at the narrow loss. "We earned seven penalty corners to England's five and created enough opportunities in field play," Clark said of his team's performance against the reigning European champions. `
Clark's team, whose goal came from Taine Paton, are likely to play the losers of the Pakistan/India match that was to take pace late Sunday, in Tuesday's fifth place playoff.
For Bonnet's girls, much of their goalscoring potential will lie with the world's all-time great goalscoring striker and set-piece specialist Pietie Coetzee, who netted her 200th in her 200th Test match against India.
"Pietie is a special player and what an awesome achievement. We're in the semis now and although we are the underdogs, anything can happen in a game of this nature," Bonnet added.
Source: Jon Cook
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