Good win for SA hockey men

2015-03-03 00:00

THE South Africa men’s hockey team enjoyed a morale-boosting 4-1 win against rivals China in a training match at Hartleyvale in Cape Town yesterday evening to add to the 3-3 draw against the Chinese on Sunday night.

However, now it’s a nervous time for the enlarged squad as they wait to see who will make the final 18 for the World League tournament that begins at the same venue on Saturday.

The team are likely to be named today. The players have been hard at work since February 19 in Cape Town as the group builds towards the big World League Round event from March 7 to 15 in the Mother City.

Players have arrived in dribs and drabs over the last fortnight once their overseas club commitments (a select few) or, for the most part, work and university commitments were completed for the time being.

“Yes, it was an improvement from Sunday’s match but we must bear in mind that these are training matches and sides don’t show you everything,” SA assistant coach Garreth Ewing said last night.

“In a sense the Chinese didn’t bring much positive to the game. They were defensive in their outlook and that allowed us to stamp our authority on the match.”

Who scored the goals in training games is of little interest to the ­management staff as they focus on the manner in which the players combine, rather than the final outcomes.

The majority of amateur SA players are very much out-of-season and this training camp was vitally important in getting the squad as game-ready as possible.

SA captain Austin Smith is likely to be the last to arrive when he joins the camp from Europe today.

World Cup, Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games captain Smith — so often the team’s lynchpin and a recent Hockey India League title winner — regular first-choice keeper Rassie Pieterse, Old Hiltonian midfielder Tim Drummond and striker Taine Paton, a Maritzburg College product, are among the likely players in the 18-man World League team.

Head coach Fabian Gregory said that despite the competitiveness selection-wise between the players, they have all worked very hard for each other and for what management are busy implementing.

It’s been a heavy mental and physical load for the players who have been at camp, and the last practice match is versus France at 8 pm tonight.

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