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Swimmers, sevens stars carry South Africa hopes

South Africa will look to their swimmers and rugby sevens side to give them a flying start at Melbourne on Thursday.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2006 19:02 IST

South Africa enjoyed their best ever Commonwealth Games medal haul four years ago and will look to their swimmers and rugby sevens side to give them a flying start at Melbourne on Thursday.

South Africa's men pulled off a major shock in 2004 when they won the Olympic Games 100m freestyle swimming relay title in world record time and they are determined to lower the mark in the final.

"We have two of the medal winners from the 100m (Roland Schoeman and Ryk Neethling) and another guy who won everything in the American college season (Lyndon Ferns)," said head coach Dirk Lange.

"It would be a real surprise for us if we were not be on top in this (4x100m freestyle relay) event.

"People underestimated us in Athens and all the guys are good so there is no weak link in the relay team," team anchor Neethling said.

"Maybe it scared some people, surprised some others, but it's the beginning of something great for South African swimming.

"We are all friends and we have the similar feelings we had in Athens, so a world record is definitely our target and we are capable of achieving it," Neethling said.

"The relay on the opening night will be a good start for us."

South Africa's rugby sevens team should have few problems qualifying from Pool D which also features Samoa, Tonga and Uganda.

But in Friday's knockout round, they will face either England or Australia for a place in the semi-finals.

"This a tough pool for us," said coach Paul Treu.

"But to win any tournament you have to beat everyone you face and we have prepared for the Commonwealth Games knowing that we have to win every match."

Treu was skipper of the South African side which won bronze at the 2002 Games in Manchester.

South Africa is also well represented in the squash tournament which gets underway Thursday.

Craig van der Wath has a tough opener against Wales' Alex Gough while Rodney Durbach meets Chirag Shah of Kenya. In the women's event, Diana Argyle meets England's Tanya Bailey.

In women's weightlifting, Portia Vries is a challenger to India's defending champion Kunjarani Devi in the 48kg division.

South Africa also have teams in action in the badminton mixed team's event, men's basketball and men's table tennis.

The country won a total of 46 medals in Manchester in 2002 of which nine were gold.

South Africa's best ever gold medal haul came back in 1954 when they collected 16 in a total of 36.

First Published: Mar 16, 2006 19:02 IST