- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

Former field hockey gold medalists New Zealand and Spain have accepted invites to compete in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics after South Africa rejected the offers.

The New Zealand men, champions in 1976, and Spain women, champions in 1992, complete the 12-team fields.

Both were the highest placed teams from the Hockey World League semifinals who had not already qualified.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee turned down the automatic qualifying berths its national teams earned by winning the African championships in November in Johannesburg.

The International Hockey Federation, on behalf of South Africa field hockey, appealed to the IOC to force SASCOC to accept the berths, but the IOC stated that all sports bodies must respect the authority of national Olympic committees.

“It is with great sadness that we receive this news,” South Africa association CEO Marissa Langeni said in a statement.

She said they will continue to lobby for a review of SASCOC’s qualifying criteria beyond the Rio Olympics.

Both South African teams competed at the last three Olympics.

SASCOC has also turned down an Olympic berth for its women’s rugby sevens team.

It warned South Africa field hockey that it had to qualify through the Hockey World League rather than by the continental route.

The South Africa men’s team, ranked 15th, hosted a league round in March, and missed out by one spot from advancing to the semifinals.

The women, ranked 11th, finished seventh in a 10-team semifinal pool in June, and didn’t advance to the finals. Spain, ranked 14th, was sixth in the same pool.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee said Friday it told Hockey New Zealand it was accepting the invite for the eighth-ranked men’s team.

The Spanish Hockey Federation noted that after months of speculation about South Africa discarding its invites, “fortunately, in the end, this is what happened.”

The field hockey lineups in Rio is:

Men: Australia (Oceania champion), India (Asian Games champion), Argentina (Pan American Games champion), Netherlands (European champion), Germany, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Spain, Ireland, Brazil, New Zealand.

Women: Australia (Oceania champion), South Korea (Asian Games champion), United States (Pan American Games champion), Britain (European champion), China, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands, New Zealand, India, Japan, Spain.

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