Clark expects much more from his team
“It was an overwhelmingly inept performance from the team and if we continue to produce hockey of that quality we will not advance past the quarterfinals and it's likely we will not earn a victory in the play-offs.”
This was SA men’s hockey team head coach Gregg Clark’s summing up of South Africa’s 3-1 defeat to Ireland in their final Group B match on Tuesday night that saw them confined to fourth and last place in that section of the Champions Challenge tournament taking place in Quilmes, Argentina this week.
South Africa meet Group A winners Malaysia in the quarterfinals at 1.30 pm (SA team) Thursday and Clark knows his team are far better than what they showed against the Irish.
“We are capable of a much higher standard of play and I am confident that if we can produce this quality - both individually and collectively - we can comfortably beat any team at this tournament.
“Malaysia have played well thus far, are unbeaten and are clearly favourites for the match. But everybody knows that the tournament proper starts now and there are no more second chances. This brings out the best in some teams while for others the pressure tells. It's obvious which team we want to be,” said Clark
SA captain Austin Smith was also frank about the Ireland game: “Technically we were not nearly good enough, which meant although we had a good plan and structure we never really got into the flow.
“We have had plenty of video footage of Malaysia to look at and from playing them in the past I know what we can expect. The nature of this tournament means we are still in with a chance and if we reduce our error rate we can still make Saturday’s semifinals.”
Malaysian coach Paul Revington, the South African who was head coach of SA’s Athens 2004 Olympic team which included Clark, is not taking the men in green and gold lightly. “South Africa are no pushovers, even though they hit a bad patch in the Group stages so we will have to bring out our best game to move into the semis."
In the other quarters Japan (second in Group B) face South Korea (third in Group A), Poland (second in Group A) meet Ireland (third in Group B) and Argentina (first in Group B) are up against Canada (fourth in Group A).