London – South Africa’s men’s lightweight coxless four have placed themselves in contention for an Olympic gold medal by qualifying for Thursday’s A final.
The team of Matthew Brittain, Sizwe Ndlovu, John Smith and James Thompson finished second out of six boats – behind Denmark and ahead of Australia – in a time of 6:04:21 in the second semi-final on Tuesday.
The quartet’s coach, Roger Barrow, said the team backed themselves to achieve a podium finish when they line-up in the final at Eton Dorney, but preferred to operate below the radar beforehand.
“We are quite confident but we don’t really like people talking us up,” Barrow said.
“That is why we are really quiet in going about our business.
“We believe we can be in the front, or definitely in the first three.”
The recent winners of silver at this year’s World Cup Regatta in Switzerland will hope to, at the very least, emulate coxless pair Ramon di Clemente and Donovan Cech’s 2004 Athens Olympics bronze medal performance.
The team were in fine form on Tuesday and Barrow said they were peaking at exactly the time they had planned.
“We’ve had a really good build-up but being at the Olympics for the first time is always going to be nerve-wracking.
“So it depends on how we deal with all the pressure.
“I think the group we’ve got have dealt with it really well so far, progressing through the rounds in just the way we wanted them to.”
Team member Brittain said they had suffered a hard time with nerves but pulled through to give themselves a good chance of winning silverware.
“I think we were very nervous coming into this race and it's a relief to get one under the belt,” Brittain said.
“I'm glad we're not in the B final, you can't win anything in the B.
“We don't chase the result, we chase the good race and we hope the good race will lead to the good result.”
Ndlovu said the team had put trust in each other and established a rhythm, allowing them to feed off each other.
“What works for me is rhythm - rhythm is everything,” Ndlovu said.
“It’s going to be tough, obviously, but we're up for it.” – Sapa