Can SA salvage pride at Games?

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

BANGKOK - The 24th World Student Games soccer competition reaches its climax today with South Africa taking on Poland at Thammasat University Stadium.

With the World Student Games officially ending tomorrow, the South Africa-Poland fixture will be a classification playoff for 11th and 12th place after the two countries dismally failed to win even a single match of this biennial 16-nation competition.

South Africa bombed out of the top 10 after they were mauled 9-0 by Japan at the same venue on Wednesday. Poland were defeated 1-0 by Canada on the same day.

"We want to end our campaign at the World Student Games with a bang by beating Poland," said Queen Moloko, manager of the South African team, yesterday.

"We have fully recovered from the embarrassing defeat by Japan and are ready to deal with whatever Poland will be throwing at us. The team will be flying back to South Africa after the match."

Jerry Laka, South African coach, said: "We are also excited that we have been able to book a place in the 2009 World Student Games now that we won't finish below 12th in the rankings here in Thailand."

The women's final today will see the Republic of Korea playing against Russia, with Brazil and Ireland slugging it out for a bronze medal. In the men's section, Italy and Ukraine clash in the final.

Thailand face Canada in a third-place playoff.

In softball, which was introduced for the first time as part of the World Student Games in Bangkok, Team South Africa finished the tournament lying tenth and last in the rankings.

This was after they were hammered 15-0 by the Czech Republic at the Youth Centre Diamonds on Wednesday.

Frans Maubane, South African Student Sports Union softball commission chairman, said: "We are disappointed that we did not win even a single match.

"One of the lessons we learnt here is that we should go for the kill when we are batting.

"It was also a learning curve for our players, everybody has now been exposed to international softball, which will also benefit the nation when they are selected by Softball South Africa."

At the time of going to press yesterday, Team South Africa were still lying 24th out of a record 155 countries with one gold medal, two silver and one bronze.

lRamatsiyi Moholoa is in Thailand as a guest of Sassu.