Still a long way to go for SA hockey

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iol spt dec27 Hockey women Gallo Images Funding still remains a hurdle to overcome, according to SA Hockey Association (Saha) chief executive Marissa Langeni.

Johannesburg – Funding still remains a hurdle to overcome, according to SA Hockey Association (Saha) chief executive Marissa Langeni, should the country want to compete with the best teams in world hockey.

“Are we there yet as South Africa? Definitely not,” Langeni said, reflecting on the year's hockey results.

“Our programmes and interventions are ad hoc and driven by the annual funding available to us.

“Most of our programmes as a national federation are funded by Lotto and the Department of Sports and Recreation – the latter on an annual basis and Lotto at most over two years.

“Despite this being the case, we continue to be a force to be reckoned with.”

The year kicked off with the first of the Olympic qualifying tournaments, after the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee would not accept qualification through the continental door, deciding the competition in Africa was not strong enough.

The SA women's side went on to beat hosts India 3-1 in Delhi in February to secure their participation at the London showpiece.

The men's side qualified for the Games in May when they beat Japan 2-1 in the final of their qualifying tournament in Kakamigahara. The SA men went unbeaten in their six matches and held off a fighting Japanese outfit to book their ticket to London.

Through their good showing in Delhi, the women's side were invited to a number of small tournaments leading up to the Games, competing against teams including world number one the Netherlands, New Zealand and Germany.

They started their Olympic campaign with a 7-1 thrashing by Argentina, before New Zealand defeated them 4-1. The South Africans went down 2-0 to Germany in their next fixture before going down in a narrow 1-0 loss to Australia.

A 7-0 trouncing of the United States followed, as they picked up their first win of the tournament, but lost 2-1 to Japan in their playoff tie to finish 10th at the Olympics.

On the men's side, a difficult 6-0 defeat to Australia got their Olympic campaign off to a poor start.

A brief positive period followed when the team claimed a surprise 2-2 draw against Great Britain, before Spain edged the South Africans 3-2.

Although goals were freely available, the men's side struggled to remain solid at the back, losing 5-4 to Pakistan before ending their group phase with a 6-3 loss to Argentina.

The SA men ended their dismal tournament with a 3-2 victory over India, to finish 11th of 12 teams at the Games.

While the Olympic campaign was a disappointment for both sides, Langeni believed Saha had to be realistic in their targets for the upcoming year.

“The women's team finished 10th while the men finished 11th,” she said.

“We certainly would have liked to finish in the top eight but we are also not naive to the fact that a world class finish is a direct consequence of a well funded and purposefully resourced programme.

“England Hockey reported an inflow of £27.5 million from government to fund their 2013-2017 campaign.

“It is therefore achievable for Great Britain to aim to remain in the top six in world hockey.

“Imagine the 2016 blue print we'd have with just half that kind of funding.”

On the local front, Southern Gauteng were crowned women's Interprovincial Hockey Tournament (IPT) champions in August, beating KZN Mynahs 8-1 in the final.

In the men' section, Southerns continued their local dominance when they thumped the SA men's Under-21 side 4-1 in Bloemfontein to lift the IPT title.

The SA men's side concluded the year's hockey action when they took part in the Champions Challenge in Quilmes, Argentina, in December.

They endured a tough tournament, losing two and drawing one of their three group fixtures, before beating Poland 4-2 to finish seventh of eight participating teams. – Sapa


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