SA hockey men focused on final game

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iol spt may3 Hockey men Gallo Images South Africa will not change their approach against unfancied Austria on Friday in their final group match of the men's Olympic Games qualifying tournament in Japan.

South Africa will not change their approach against unfancied Austria on Friday in their final group match of the men's Olympic Games qualifying tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan, according to defender Justin Reid-Ross.

“We're approaching tomorrow the same way we've approached all the other games so far,” Reid-Ross said on Thursday.

“We want to be unbeaten throughout this tournament and we'll be going out tomorrow with the aim of putting in a good team performance, getting the three points and building momentum for the final on Sunday.”

South Africa are second on the table, level on points with fellow unbeaten side Japan but trailing on goal difference.

A win or a draw against the Austrians will be enough to see them through to the final on Sunday against either Japan or China, who square off on Friday.

Reid-Ross said the South Africans were focused purely on their last group match and had not cast their minds on the prospect of playing in the final.

“Our sole focus is on banking our spot in the final and once that is achieved we'll worry about our performance in that final game,” he said.

He admitted their defence had been a slight concern, having conceded the most goals out of the top four teams on the log, but he did not believe it was a real problem for the management staff.

“I wouldn't say it's a major issue but it's certainly something we've addressed,” he said.

“There have been a few soft goals conceded and that is something that we will focus on correcting in the coming two games.”

The mood in the camp was upbeat, according to Reid-Ross, and being so close to the final the players were ready for the last push towards qualification for the London Games.

“The excitement levels are high ahead of tomorrow's game.

“We have two more big performances to put in and this group has worked hard to get to this moment.”

South Africa showed their composure on Wednesday, fighting back for a 3-3 draw against Japan and levelling the scores after the final hooter had sounded, courtesy of a Reid-Ross penalty corner.

The Dutch-based defender felt they had performed well under pressure.

“We kept to our game plan and made sure we moved the ball with patience until our opportunity opened up,” he said.

“We were still transferring the ball around the back with 40 seconds on the clock and trailing by a goal which shows the composure of the group.

“We have lads that have scored big goals in big moments and that is a major strength of this team.

“With that said, as a team, we have worked hard on making the best decision in the moment.” – Sapa


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