Month till women’s hockey team show their stuff

2012-06-30 00:00

YESTERDAY marked 30 days before the South Africa women’s hockey team open their London 2012 campaign against world champions Argentina at Olympic Park’s splendid 16 000-seater Riverbank Arena.

The July 29 match will be a litmus test of the progress the team has made since head coach Giles Bonnet took the reins two years ago.

The team embark on their final tour on Tuesday for two matches against world number one and reigning Beijing 2008 Olympic champions Holland in Arnhem before tackling world number four Great Britain in two matches at Riverbank and rounding off at a four- nations tournament in Bremen against hosts Germany, New Zealand and Belgium. Players have just been through a 17-day physical training phase in SA.

The former SA men’s captain and coach says Dutch physical trainer Jan Stappenbelt, who has been working with the team since the Delhi Olympic qualifier final four months ago, worked daily with the squad in the four-week training stage in Holland in April/May, and this month ran three days’ physical training in each of Johannesburg and Cape Town, where the players were split 50-50.

“The players worked very hard and largely we are where we expect to be now, 30 days out from London,” Bonnet said yesterday. “Re-qualifying again in February meant that we had to readjust our programme, as two peak moments within six months is very difficult. As such we are slightly behind physically where we planned to be. Everyone realises the importance of the days that we have at our disposal and the very tight preparation programme we have been allowed.”

The Amsterdam-based Bonnet who is originally from KwaZulu-Natal, said that although the two periods were positive it was frustrating to have TV cameras disturb training in Johannesburg last Wednesday and in Cape Town last Saturday. “Every player had a doping check, which also was incredibly frustrating as both interventions interfered with our programme and reduced the full benefit of this stage.

“In addition we had double bookings at certain moments, which meant we had to run on grass; not ideal. I am satisfied with the players’ efforts and certain progress, but dissatisfied with the environment and conditions that we are forced to prepare under.”

How must the players deal with the nervous energy and thought processes in this final month, the culmination of two years’ work?

“We have an experienced team and staff. There is always excitement around the Games and other major events. However this is no burden on the team,” said the former SA men’s captain and coach. “We have been busy building a platform for the future, and London 2012 is one milestone on this journey.”

The former Natal captain, who was schooled at Michaelhouse, said the planning had been in place for 24 months.

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