London - British hockey officials apologised to South Africa's women's team on Wednesday for mistakenly playing the apartheid-era anthem Die Stem at a tournament ahead of next month's Olympics.

Great Britain hockey published a “full and unreserved apology” on its website for the gaffe before a match against the host nation at the London Cup on Tuesday.

“The error was made by a contractor responsible for sports presentation at the event,” it said.

“Standard procedure would be to check anthems to be played with visiting teams in advance, however, on this occasion that did not happen and Great Britain Hockey accepts full responsibility.

“Great Britain Hockey and its contractor appreciate the sensitive nature of this unfortunate mistake and we apologise unreservedly for the offence caused.”

South African Hockey Association chief executive Marissa Langeni had written to the competition manager to demand an assurance that it would not happen again.

“As a country we watched with disbelief as our team stood through what clearly was a most embarrassing and uncomfortable experience,” said Langeni.

Britain, without several key players, were beaten 3-1 by South Africa. The tournament is their last before next month's London Games. - Reuters