Their aspirations of surviving past the pool stages of the competition will hinge on the result against Canada, who are their lowest ranked opposition in the pool, today.
The Proteas would have to beat the North Americans to claim a crossover match for a chance of playing in a quarter-final.
The Canadians (11th) are ranked four places above the South Africans but their 2-1 defeat to Belgium in their opener suggests they may have more pluck than their ranking may indicate.
Belgium are the strongest team in the pool as the third best-ranked team in the world - behind leaders Australia and Argentina - with India lying two places below them.
South Africa suffered a confidence-busting 5-0 defeat to India in their opening match on Wednesday to relegate them to the bottom of the pool.
The Proteas were completely outclassed by a young talented Indian side, although there were moments when South Africa were able to put up resistance.
They showed some promising moments in the match by keeping the Indians scoreless in the second quarter while the third chukka was also their best in the match despite conceding two goals.
But they will have to make major improvements to give themselves a fighting chance against Canada and avoid an early departure from the tournament.
They will have to make some drastic changes to ensure they do not concede possession at the rate they did against India.
Scoring opportunities were few and far between in their opening match with their poor ball retention playing a major role in this regard.
South Africa captain Tim Drummond said after the India encounter that the team would have to improve on their mistakes and take some lessons from the defeat.
“I’m very disappointed, we thought we could come here and get a result and put in a positive performance so naturally we are disappointed,” Drummond said.
“But I know the strength of this group and we can grow and learn from these tough experiences.”
The Proteas finished 11th at the previous edition of the tournament in the Netherlands, where they suffered four defeats and conceded 21 goals while they managed a goalless draw with South Korea.
They beat Malaysia 6-2 in the 11th place play-off match to avoid the wooden spoon.
This is South Africa’s sixth appearance at the World Cup and they are hoping to improve on their previous best 10th place finishes from 2010 and 1994.
The South Africans next face Canada today in their second Pool C match before facing the Belgians on Saturday (1.30pm).
In the same pool today, India take on Belgium (3.30pm).@ockertde