SA women’s legend returns in late team boost

2010-09-21 00:00

HEAD coach Giles Bonnet is a happy man.

His star goalscorer, world hockey legend Pietie Coetzee, was named by Sascoc yesterday as the replacement for number one goalkeeper Mariette Rix in the South Africa women’s hockey team that heads for the Commonwealth Games in India this week.

However, Rix’s absence now places enormous pressure on the remaining keeper in the 16-player squad, former Epworth schoolgirl and current Tukkies and Northerns Blues stopper Sanani Mangisa.

Rix has been diagnosed with a chronic lower back pain that has plagued her for six months and caused her to miss South Africa’s last World Cup match against India in Argentina two weeks ago.

As Bonnet rotates his wider squad while looking to pin down his starting line-up for the London 2012 Olympic Games, the number two keeper in Argentina, Hanli Hattingh, was left out for Mangisa for the Delhi tournament in two weeks’ time.

Coetzee was not in the original squad named by Sascoc as she had not yet announced her return to the national set-up, but was in time to be picked for the World Cup.

Coetzee (32) was Investec South Africa’s leading goalscorer at the World Cup in Argentina that ended a fortnight ago, and looked the part despite her self-imposed exile from the national team since 2005.

Bonnet has made no secret of the fact that he sees Coetzee as a key figure in his drive to take the national team to the world top six in two years’ time. Indeed, Coetzee’s influence was integral to then world number 12 SA finishing 10th in Argentina, a result that has seen them break back into the world top 10 for the first time in a number of years.

The Southern Gauteng forward has that rare ability to net world-class field goals as well as penalty corners, which has seen her score 194 goals in 196 internationals.

And the player herself is not convinced that she is back at peak form, which sends an ominous warning to opposition defences.

What is more important, though, is Coetzee’s newfound zest for the game, which many attribute to her relaxed attitude in what is a happy team under Bonnet and captain Marsha Marescia.

Marescia told The Witness yesterday that the wide variety of personalities in the team have gelled together to form a formidable team spirit.

“Players like Marcelle Keet [Border] bring in a wonderfully positive attitude of their own that has made for a nice balance.”

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