The South African men’s hockey team’s second and final warm-up match ahead of Saturday’s 5 pm opening-round Champions Challenge clash against Poland was abandoned at half-time at the Randburg Hockey Stadium Wednesday night, the host venue succumbing to yet another massive rainstorm.
SA were leading Japan 1-0 at the time. This follows Tuesday night’s washed out practice match against Malaysia, which saw the sides deadlocked at 1-1 after 20 minutes when the heavens opened.
Head coach Gregg Clark’s pre-tournament training camp that began last week is now over, and the 24-player squad will be cut to the tournament 18 when the team is named Thursday morning.
It could be an uneasy night for many of the players, as a number have come close to selection for major tournaments in the past, such as the Beijing Olympics, only to be left out. Western Province forward Ian Haley is one of them, as is KZN Coastal Raiders defender Gareth Carr.
The crucial Champions Challenge men’s tournament takes place at Randburg from November 26 to December 4 and the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) have tasked the Africa champions with nothing less than an appearance in the final if they are to be part of Team South Africa at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
SA are in the “Pool of Death”, with eight-time Olympic Games gold medallists India, as well as Belgium, who have already qualified for London, and the difficult proposition that is Poland in their opponents.
South Africa’s Pool A matches at Randburg are against Poland on Saturday (5 pm), India on Sunday (5 pm) and Belgium next Tuesday (5 pm). Next Thursday (December 1) sees the teams go into the quarter-finals, with the semi-finals next Saturday and the gold medal match next Sunday, December 4.
Pool B features Canada, Malaysia, Japan and Argentina. Like the Belgians, the South Americans have also already qualified to be one of the 12 teams in the London Olympic Games next August.
SA MEN’S HOCKEY TEAM FOR CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE
Goalkeepers: Brendon Botes (Eastern Province), Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng).
Defenders: Justin Reid-Ross (Northern Blues), Lloyd Madsen (KZN Coastal Raiders), Lance Louw (Southern Gauteng), Rhett Halkett (Northern Blues), Gareth Carr (KZN Coastal Raiders), Andrew Cronje (Western Province).
Midfielders: Austin Smith (capt, Western Province), Wade Paton, Taine Paton, Tim Drummond (all KZN Coastal Raiders), Clinton Panther (Southern Gauteng).
Strikers: Ian Haley (Western Province), Marvin Harper (KZN Coastal Raiders), Lloyd Norris-Jones (Western Province), Miguel da Graca, Thornton McDade (both Southern Gauteng).
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