New women’s hockey coach aims to build world-beating team

2010-05-28 00:00

“THE objectives of the SA Hockey Association are clear. We wish the SA women’s team to become a top six nation in world hockey.”

These are the words of Giles Bonnet, the newly appointed SA women’s hockey coach, who spoke exclusively to The Witness about his new role and the challenges that lie ahead as the 18-player team leaves for a three-week tour to China today — and 12 Test matches against the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games silver medallists.

“To achieve this, there are many influencing factors, and although we are realistic on the timing of this process, we wish to accelerate it,” said the former SA men’s national captain and coach.

Bonnet has catered for 23 two-hour training sessions as well as 12 Tests in a three-week period. For the players it will be exhausting and mentally demanding.

“We are staying at our request at the national training centre in Beijing, which is 100 metres from the hockey fields — ideal for the stage that we have envisaged.

“If the players can get through the Chinese tour, they’ll be well equipped to cope with any future curve-balls,” said the man who coaches Pinoke, an Amsterdam men’s club in the toughest and most competitive hockey league in the world. The former Highbury Prep and Michaelhouse schoolboy said the national squad will be reviewed at the interprovincial tournament in East London from July 20 to 24, from which a squad of 35 players will be selected.

He said the selection has been broadened to allow for competition — and this policy will continue to be followed as the team goes forward.

The challenges that lie ahead?

“The national programme has been static since the Champions Challenge in November 2009. The challenge will be to focus on creating a medium- to long-term sustainable programme giving clarity to players as to expectations in the upcoming two-year period.

“What will be crucial is to get the players back in line with world-class levels. This will be the biggest challenge, and one for which we must avoid making concessions or excuses and create an environment in which the players continue to drive themselves to reach new levels,” said Bonnet (45), who lived in Hillcrest, Durban during his earlier years.

Bonnet said that in Beijing he will be focusing on the strengths of the players and the team, and on building the set pieces, “especially the specialist skills required in these disciplines”.

“China gives us the opportunity of setting standards in training intensity, expectations on mentality and individual performance, assessment and introduction of new technical skills.

“It’s the start of a process to introduce an aggressive playing style both with and without the ball, and to set and share a collective vision for the future,” Bonnet said.

SA TEAM

Cindy Botha, Kelly Madsen (KZN Coastal), Kathleen Taylor, Tarryn Bright, Philippa Rabey, Hanli Hattingh, Farah Fredericks (Western Province), Lisa Deetlefs (vice-capt), Julia Cass, Marsha Marescia (capt), Roxanne Turner, Tsoanelo Pholo (Southern Gauteng), Kim Hubach, Sanani Mangisa, Dirkie Chamberlain (Northern Gauteng), Celia Evans (North West), Lesle-Ann George (Free State, vice-capt), Marcelle Keet (Border-Amathole).

Team management: Giles Bonnet (head coach), Fabian Gregory, Wayne Denne (trainers), Kokkie Sieling (manager).

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