Smith: We have what it takes
Durban - South African men's hockey captain, Austin Smith, is confident his side will qualify for next year's London Olympics after a week-long camp in Durban that kicked off the buildup to their qualifying campaign.
"I definitely believe we have what it takes to get to the Olympics," Smith said after this week's camp.
"I may have had a little bit of doubt knowing how hard it was going to be, but after this week that's all gone.
"These last few days confirmed for me what a great base we have and how many guys we can call on."
The nation's top 30 players were invited to the camp where they played four friendly matches.
They were split into two squads in a sequence of games titled the EagleTurf All Star Series, with national coach Gregg Clark keen for his players to get some game time ahead of their Olympic qualifying campaign that begins in September.
"The quality of play has been really high, so I'm really pleased with that," Smith said.
"International competition is of course still what we're looking for, but this is the next best thing."
The SA squad were initially due to play against other international teams during the camp, but those plans were scrapped due to financial constraints.
Smith said they were nonetheless pleased with the form of the players, particularly the youngsters, in the squad.
"I have been a little concerned as captain by the lack of camps that we've had," Smith said.
"We haven't really been able to have an extended squad like this, so it's really exciting to see so many players who've come up.
"I think we had eight or nine that have never been involved in the squad before and I don't think you could have picked who they were if you were watching from outside.
"They really fitted in well and the general culture of team spirit has been really good. I think it's one of our strengths."
South Africa will need to win the African Olympic qualifying tournament in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in September, and then place in the top two of the Champions Challenge in Johannesburg in November to qualify for the London Games.
Smith said the latest camp had given him added belief that they could achieve their goal, and while they expected to put in a strong showing in Zimbabwe, the Champions Challenge would provide them with their stiffest challenge.
The Champions Challenge tournament features the teams ranked ninth to 16th in the world.
"We will be the favourites again (in Zimbabwe), but going into Africa you never quite know what to expect," he said.
"There will be a number of sides in Bulawayo that will be extremely competitive.
"It won't be a matter of just pitching up there and expecting to take the cup. It's going to be tough.
"The Champions Challenge will be difficult. We're ranked 12th in the world and we're going to have to finish well above our ranking to meet the requirement.
"But playing in Johannesburg will give us an advantage and it's a great chance to showcase South African hockey."
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