SA hockey men rue missed chances

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Gregg_Clarke2 Gallo Images SA hockey men's head coach Gregg Clark.

Lisburn, Northern Ireland – South Africa failed to execute the chances that were handed to them by Ireland in Thursday evening's Celtic Cup opener, according to national men's hockey coach Gregg Clark.

The South Africans lost 4-2 to the hosts in wet and slippery conditions at the Lisnagarvey Hockey Club, and Clark believed his side were wasteful in front of goal.

“We left a lot of chances out there,” Clark said after the match.

“We had the chances, we had the opportunities, we just didn't execute.”

Ireland took the lead early in the first half and looked weary at times but ultimately held their nerve to secure a confidence boosting victory over the tourists.

With the weather looking threatening overhead, after it had rained for most of the afternoon, the visitors at times struggled underfoot, often slipping and falling as the wet turf took its toll.

Clark, however, said conditions could not be blamed for the loss and that the team needed to get used to wet weather as the London Olympics would be played in similar conditions.

“It's a slippery pitch where we played tonight,” he said.

“The feedback from the test event in London was that it's a very slippery and bouncy pitch, so it will be the same for everybody in London.

“We can't really complain about that too much, we just made it too easy for them.”

The South Africans last played nearly two months earlier during the Olympic qualifying tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan, but Clark said he had refused to focus on the gap in match practice and rather placed emphasis on a positive mindset going into the opening match of their European tour.

“We tried to not use the 50-days issue as an excuse, although we were aware that there may be some rustiness,” the former SA player said.

“We felt if we brought a mental perspective to the game of heightened focus on performing well, that would negate the rustiness.

“We did enough to win that game comfortably.”

Clark's team had several opportunities to win the match, including a missed penalty stroke by Andrew Cronje, with the ball hitting the crossbar and nearly bouncing in, and the coach said he was pleased with the number of chances they had created.

“Statistically we won the game in every department apart from on the scoreboard,” he said.

“We played really well in patches, our structures worked, we created the chances we needed to win the game, but we made some really bad errors which hurt us.”

South Africa will need to recover quickly, as they take on Wales on Saturday in the next round of Celtic Cup fixtures, before they face Scotland on Sunday.

Ireland posed arguably the toughest test for the South Africans, and Clark said it would be fair to predict that SA should win their next two matches.

“I would be really disappointed if we didn't win the next two games,” he said. – Sapa


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