Johannesburg: Rupinder Pal Singh's knee injury is a cause of concern for the Indian hockey team as it prepares to take on hosts South Africa in the semifinals of the Champions Challenge tournament on Saturday. (Agencies)
Rupinder was carried off the field on a stretcher in the second half when a Malaysian player ran into him during an Indian penalty corner in the quarter-finals.
The India-Malaysia quarterfinals provided the best exhibition of Asian hockey in a game that saw India stage a late comeback and win though a golden goal.
The semifinals will be India's second encounter in the tournament against South Africa, following the group match in which India posted an impressive 7-4 victory.
Rupinder is feeling sore and has been give rest from Friday’s training and the final decision on fielding him in the semifinals would be taken after the doctors examine him again.
Coach Michael Nobbs says the decision on playing Rupinder in the semifinals can wait until he is re-examined.
“We'll see how he's feeling tonight, by when he would have had a full day's rest. His injury will be examined again as we want to take no chances," said Nobbs.
Rupinder's use as a penalty corner shooter has been limited in this tournament due to the presence of penalty corner specialist Sandeep Singh and V R Raghunath but he has played a significant role in the team's new pattern of play.
The defence continues to be a cause of concern for the Indian team after it allowed Malaysia speedy strikers plenty of space deep in the Indian Territory.
India is also aware that the big victory over South Africa will have little relevance when the semifinal gets underway.
Hosts South Africa, the African continental champions, will be eager to settle the scores, and would be doubly determined not to repeat the mistakes of the pool encounter with India that was level 4-4 until India broke through to score three goals in the last 15 minutes.
There is a lot at stake for South Africa, for whom a victory over India would assure participation in the 2012 Olympics.
South Africa's title win in the All Africa Games gave them a direct entry to the London Olympics but the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) said the level of hockey competition in the African championship was not very good, and the team must prove its strength to warrant Olympic Games participation.
SASCOC has put a condition that the team must make the final of this Champions Challenge, or otherwise surrender the direct Olympic Games entry and play in the Olympic Qualifiers.
The physical game the South Africans play did not ruffle the Indians in the group match as the Indian team also played a robust game and capitalised on counter-attacks to build pressure on the rivals.
India will be hoping to reproduce that form in the semifinals and stay on course to winning the Champions Challenge, which would give them a direct spot in next year's elite Champions Trophy.
Johannesburg: Rupinder Pal Singh's knee injury is a cause of concern for the Indian hockey team as it prepares to take on hosts South Africa in the semifinals of the Champions Challenge tournament on Saturday.