SA hockey men lack consistency

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Gregg_Clarke3 Gallo Images SA hockey men's head coach Gregg Clark.

South African men's hockey coach Gregg Clark says his side are still searching for consistency after wrapping up their tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland on Thursday.

The South Africans took part in the Celtic Cup – along with hosts Ireland, Scotland and Wales – in Lisburn last week where they lost their opener to Ireland before beating Wales and Scotland.

They then won the three-nations tournament in Dublin, defeating world number 11 Belgium on Tuesday before playing to a 3-3 draw against Ireland in one-off Test on Wednesday.

“As a team, something we are still striving for is consistency,” Clark said.

“In the past we haven't banked back-to-back wins or results and it's something that we are trying to address.

“It was good for us to win three matches on the trot (beating Wales, Scotland and Belgium) and then to get a draw, so we are unbeaten in four games which is important for us.”

Clark admitted that, while his team created enough chances in both matches against Ireland, they had failed to take their opportunities.

He was nonetheless pleased with the rest of their results on tour thus far.

“In the Wales game and the first half of the Scotland game, that is the kind of performance we want to achieve, and it is what we are capable of doing,” Clark said.

“Again, it comes down to consistency of being able to do that and to reproduce that, but it has been difficult.

“We've had a really different midfield and we haven't been able to create a lot of cohesion there.

“To get the consistency we've been looking for has been difficult without our leader (Austin Smith).”

South Africa lost both captain Smith and Jonty Robinson to illness early in the tour, shortly after the first match against Ireland, but Robinson has since recovered and featured for the tourists in Wednesday's game.

Clark said he was pleased with the defensive effort from his side, particularly in the match against Belgium – which SA won 3-2 Ä with the defenders putting up a brave display to keep their noses ahead and grind out a victory.

“We are certainly putting in a lot of focus on a lot of detail in what we are doing defensively both in the one-on-one confrontations and our entire structure,” he said.

“It was much better, we competed better for the ball, we were ahead of the game, we were reading the game better and anticipating the game better.

“I thought we won a lot of 'fifty-fifties' in that game and when it comes to the top level, there's not much in it between the sides so you have to do that.

“So we are going in the right direction from a defensive point of view.”

The team left for Santander, Spain, on Friday morning where they will meet world number 10 India and their hosts before heading home to SA before the Olympics gets underway at the end of July.

Clark believed his side would peak at the right time after a long build-up to the Games.

“We still have a couple of training games before our first match in London so I am hoping that we will be really ready from all our on-field structures and from putting the detail into our technical executions,” he said.

“Spain will be a really good indicator for us as well, but we are going in the right direction.

“The challenge for us is to make sure we get everyone to London in one piece.”

** Sapa's reporter is on tour as a guest of the SA Hockey Association. – Sapa


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