If one goes by current world ranking, India are only one place behind South Africa at No 13. With the other four squads further down, a fan would immediately quip that standing between India and the London Olympic berth are the girls from the Rainbow Nation.
After a hearty laugh, SA skipper Marsha Marescia reiterated the fact. “One can even say it the other way round! India are a very unorthodox side and they have performed extremely well over the last couple of years. The Indian girls can throw anything at us, so we have to be prepared,” said Marescia.
South Africa had already qualified for London after winning gold in the African women's qualifying tournament in Bulawayo last September. But the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee said that the tournament was not competitive enough, thus the squad had to give up their place to Argentina.
“We saw the Indian side in Argentina last year (during the Four-Nation tournament in Parana in December). Once we see how they perform here, we would know how to tackle the challenge,” she added. The South Africa squad has 11 players who have over 100 international caps as compared to India, who have only three.
“We have recently given the South Africans stiff challenge in Argentina without our five key players,” said India coach CR Kumar.
“Since they are one rung above in the rankings, they would be considered biggest threat. But with six teams competing for one Olympic berth, anything can happen.”