Baptism of fire for SA women’s hockey team on three-week training trip to China

2010-06-04 00:00

A NEW coach with serious work ethic; expect physical and mental energy to go into overdrive.

That’s the experience of the SA women’s hockey team so far on their three-week trip to China — and it’s not going to get easier.

After arriving in Beijing at the weekend, Giles Bonnet immediately put the team to work. An unofficial international gave SA an indication of the challenges.

China, 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medallists, beat SA 7-1. The second outing, the first Test match of 11, saw SA find their feet, but still resulted in a 4-1 defeat.

The goal of the trip is to get as much into three weeks as possible, with training, team understanding and the coach’s goals and pattern more important than results.

Results will matter at the World Cup in Argentina and Commonwealth Games in India later this year.

SA captain Marsha Marescia said that with China firing; the pace new to many; two new caps in Nicole de Vries and Pietermaritzburg-raised Celia Evans (20); the return of Marcelle Keet, Lesley-Ann George, Dirkie Chamberlain and Pippa Rabey, and the rest not having played in seven months, defeat was unsurprising.

It allowed players to settle and gain the confidence Bonnet seeks. Soft goals cost SA, but understanding “the extent to which Giles wanted us to show flair in our play” won out.

The first official Test was more encouraging, said defender Kim Hubach.

A two-hour morning session focused on “strikers leading in the circle and defenders defending tighter and more physically”.

Hubach said SA played exciting hockey a few hours later, creating opportunities, with “one resulting in a fantastic goal by Dirkie Chamberlain, who perfected what was learnt”.

At half-time it was 2-1 to China and the second half wasn’t as good, but SA showed guts and determination.

“Still, exciting times lie ahead for the next 10 Tests and South Africa are learning new tactics and tricks from Giles,” said Hubach.

Marescia said that while the team are exhausted, it was exciting for strikers and midfielders to work on goalscoring techniques and “for some players training for new positions”.

“Giles told us, ‘Dare to play … if you are not trying something new or making mistakes you are doing nothing.’ With motivation like that from your coach, what more can one say?”

SA have also been sampling local cuisine — and it’s reported that fish heads and duck head are taking some getting used to.

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