South African hockey camp realistic, yet optimistic

2013-03-16 00:00

TALKING to Investec South Africa women’s hockey team strikers Dirkie Chamberlain and legendary world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee about the girls in green and gold’s opponents at the Investec World League semi-finals in London in June, one has a sense that there is realism, as well as quiet optimism in the South African camp.

Pool B for the eight-nation semi-

final tournament at the University of Westminster in Chiswick, London, from June 22 to 30, sees world No. 11 South Africa tackle world No. 4 and London 2012 Olympic games bronze medallists England (who played as Great Britain), world No. 6 Australia and world No. 15 Spain.

The pools were finalised by the International Hockey Federation this week, at the end of the World League Round 2 tournament in Brazil.

“We are in a tough pool,” said Coetzee, who enjoyed a stellar three weeks during South Africa’s Investec Challenge silver medal success in Cape Town last month.

She took her world record tally to 262 goals in 263 Tests, while scoring 15 times in nine internationals.

“England will have their more experienced players back, but I feel we will be able to challenge them hard,” said the 34-year-old Southern Gauteng sharpshooter.

“Playing Australia is always tough and they will be at their best.

“We’ve come a long way against them over the last two years and will be going for a win.”

Chamberlain, a defender’s nightmare during the Investec Challenge, said Australia would be a key match.

“That game can be a definite win for us,” she said.

“We beat them in the Investec Challenge semi-finals when they had 90% of their team and I think with us also improving, this game will be our most important.”

The South African striker is wary of Spain, saying: “They have been a thorn in our side, but I believe we can beat them comfortably.”

World No. 2 and London 2012 silver medallists Argentina have top billing in Pool A and they will play world No.7 China, world No. 10 the USA and world No. 17 Italy.

The top four teams go through to the eight-nation Investec World League finals in Argentina from November 30 to December 8, and should London go well for Coetzee and company, that would effectively place SA in the top eight in the world at that point.

First prize for SA would be to win Pool B, which would likely pit them against world No. 17 Italy in the London tournament’s quarter-finals.

Not winning a Pool B match could well see South Africa meeting Argentina in the quarter-finals.

Second or third in Pool B would give SA a better chance against the likes of the USA and China.

Coetzee added: “Should we meet them, Argentina will be our biggest battle. We will beat USA and Italy comfortably. If we meet China that could be interesting.

“At this moment in our training we are determined to come top two in our pool in London.”

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