11 September 2008

South Africa: Hockey Association Seeks Solutions

Johannesburg — SOUTH African Hockey Association (Saha) president Dave Carr said yesterday his association had asked the National Lottery Board for between R10m and R15m to fund their drive towards the next Olympic Games in 2012.

He also said he had written to every player in the men's and women's squads to ask for feedback on their experiences in Beijing.

The South African men's and women's teams had a torrid time at the Olympics, with just one victory between them - the women's 4-1 victory over New Zealand in their last game.

Carr struck a sombre note yesterday, suggesting that hockey needed an overhaul from club level if the quality of the international sides was to improve.

He said Saha would be meeting from September 19-21 to discuss the Beijing results and to plot a way forward.

He believed the general standard of competition in the country had to improve and two scenarios would be discussed to address that problem.

"Firstly, we will look at the possibility of starting a provincial tournament along the lines of the rugby Currie Cup, to get the sides playing quality opposition at least once or twice a month."

The other scenario would be a national club league, to again try to introduce a regular, strength-versus-strength competition.

"The quality of hockey at club level is worrying," said Carr. "I was watching games in our p remier l eague in Durban a while ago and the results in two games were 11-2 and 17-0. Those are ridiculous results in your top hockey league."

Carr said the decline in the standard of club hockey was surprising because the quality in schools was still good.

"They have to play a sport at school and I have seen some seriously good skills among the school players. But when they leave school they no longer have to play, so they go to university or they go overseas and we are losing a lot of good players."

He said that the national team needed to play in Europe to improve standards. "But we also have to work on the under 16, under 18 and senior domestic levels. The National Lottery will not pay for that so we will have to get sponsors -- and to be quite realistic after our results in Beijing we are going to battle to get sponsors."

He said he had been surprised at the hard-hitting replies he had received from players who had gone to Beijing.

"They have been very direct and outspoken and made good suggestions which we could act upon. I wrote to every player and undertook to keep their names secret at the meeting."

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