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Stantander, Spain – Having wrapped up their European tour on Wednesday with a 4-3 win against India in Santander, Spain, South African captain Austin Smith believes the best is still to come from his side ahead of the London Olympic Games.
“It's nice to get the result, but it's probably still a concern, the options that we were taking with five minutes to go,” Smith said.
“It should have been a comfortable 4-2 win, but it ended up being 4-3 with a chance right at the end for them, so it was not our best performance, I don't think.
“It's good to get the result against a side that's ranked above us.
“But we are going to need to do that consistently in London if we want to finish higher than our ranking.”
Smith felt the tour had gone well with four wins, three losses and a draw leading up to a tough Olympic tournament, where South Africa will meet world number one Australia in their pool opener on July 30.
“It's been a big difference from when we prepared for Beijing (in 2008) where I don't think we won a game for like a year-and-a-half leading up to the games,” he said.
“The mood is very different when you've been winning games, even if we've played some teams that have been ranked behind us, like Scotland and Wales.
“But to get two good wins against Belgium and against India on this tour is good.”
The skipper said the players would now have to tie up any loose ends off the field as they continued in their final preparations for London, where South Africa will be the lowest-ranked team in the men's hockey tournament.
“I think there are a lot of small areas that we need to improve on which we don't necessarily need to be playing to be able to do,” he said.
“We just need to discuss scenarios and find solutions to problems.
“There are a lot of 'what ifs' now – what if this happens, how are we going to react.
“You can't plan for every eventuality and sometimes in a game not every situation is going to happen.
“The more we talk and the more we discuss things in meetings, and the more video that we look at, I think the more we will learn.
“I've been really happy with what the guys have done (on tour) and even though we haven't got any more official matches, we've still got plenty more hours together to do that.”
The squad was set to depart for South Africa early Thursday morning, where they will attend a training camp in Pretoria before departing to London.
Smith believed they had improved on several aspects of their game, including making vital decisions at crucial stages in matches.
“The fact that we chose better options (against India) helped us keep possession of the ball and I think for a large percentage of the game we had most of the ball, so that was nice,” he said.
“We created better chances and we saw how few opportunities (India) had, just because we were holding the ball for longer periods.
“They are a skillful side and you don't want them running at you too many times if you can help it.”
Smith was pleased with the overall performance of his side as they ended their tour on a high.
“All round there was just a general improvement from everybody's technical ability and decision making,” Smith said.
“The attention to detail that the guys are bringing is far more than we've had in the past, which is good.”
** Sapa's reporter is on tour as a guest of the SA Hockey Association. – Sapa