Johannesburg - South Africa’s men’s and women’s hockey teams are in a precarious position where they could be crowned winners of the Greenfields Africa Hockey Championships that kicks off in Randburg on Friday but as it stands would have no stake in the prize.
The winners of the tournament is supposed to earn Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualifying spots but the criteria as set out by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) does not allow for continental qualification for the hockey teams.
South African women’s goal keeper Sanani Mangisa said they still hoped winning the title would sway Sascoc to reconsider the qualifying criteria but they first needed to win the title to aid them in their cause.
“We are the highest ranked African team but at the same time certain African teams are coming up and are getting a lot better over the last two to three years,” Mangisa said.
“We are really up against it, and we are just looking to win it, so all the other stuff that comes afterwards we can’t control, but we can only influence it by winning the tournament.
“If we don’t win the tournament, we don’t even get the discussion with Sascoc.”
Nine men’s teams and seven women’s teams from the African continent will battle it out for the Olympic qualifying spot.
The South African men’s strongest challenge should come from Egypt, who were the silver medallists from two years ago while the women’s fiercest challenge should come from the 2013 finalists Ghana.
Mangisa said the team will not only be playing to give their Olympic hopes a shot in the arm but crucial world-ranking points will also be up for collection.
“As the number-one ranked team on the continent we have to win this, there are ranking points at stake which keep us in the top-12 in the world,” she said.
“If we do not pick up those ranking points we start slipping further down and it becomes a huge problem for us if we want to play other international teams.”
Should the South African teams win the tournament but fail to convince Sascoc to include them in the squad it will be the first since the 1992 Games that hockey will not be represented in either the men’s or women’s tournaments.
“Yes, Olympic qualification is part of it but we have to make sure we stamp our authority in Africa as the number-one ranked team,” Mangisa said.
“On November if we win this tournament it is in Sascoc’s hands but if we lose we don’t get the invitation letter.
“We want to be professional about it as a team we want to be in the top 12 in the world.”