SA hockey women ready for Germany

2009-02-02 00:00

THE South African women’s hockey team are all set to play their first Test series since the Beijing Olympics five months ago, when they face Germany in three internationals at Stellenbosch University tomorrow, Friday and Saturday.

In terms of preparation going into the series, Spar South Africa captain Marsha Marescia said yesterday she felt the home side are more or less on par with the visitors.

“Germany have eight new caps in their 22-player squad, while the rest were in Beijing,” Marescia said.

Post-Beijing, SA have also seen a number of changes for this series, with Fiona Butler and Taryn Hosking both retired and Lesley-Ann George unavailable. And of the squad to meet Germany, injury concerns surround Tarryn Bright, Vida Ryan and new cap Dirkie Chamberlain, while one of the unlucky players to miss Beijing selection, Henna du Buisson, is currently playing in France.

The Germans, ranked third in the world, finished fourth in Beijing, losing the bronze medal playoff to Argentina. South Africa, ranked number 12 — ended second-last among the dozen countries that qualified for the Olympic Games after beating New Zealand in the 11th/12th playoff match.

SA head coach Jenny King said the side were “pretty close” to where they were before Beijing in terms of readiness for the Germany series. “The training sessions have been high-intensity and while all the new caps have done well, Loreen Irvine is looking particularly exciting.”

King has a few tactical conundrums, however, the most pressing being in midfield with the unavailability of George, who has 35 Tests behind her.

“Lesley is an out-and-out midfielder, but I am going to try Loreen there. She plays in central defence at national level, but we will see how it goes.”

King was impressed with the newcomers to the SA squad — Julia Cass, Pippa Rabey, Cindy Botha, Hanli Hattingh and Irvine. “I was surprised to see that the gap between the new caps and our medium-stream players [those 30-50 caps] is not that big. Their skills and physicality is right up there.”

The coach said SA would also miss the services of experienced striker Du Buisson, who has 34 caps and 17 international goals to her credit. “Henna’s scoring ability will be missed. We will play Kathy Taylor, who is a midfielder, as the striker and she will have support from Shelley Russell.”

Spar SA Squad: Mariette Rix, Sanani Mangisa, Kate Hector, Roxanne Turner, Julia Cass, Cindy Brown, Marsha Marescia (capt), Pippa Rabey, Shelley Russell, Dirkie Chamberlain, Lisa Deetlefs, Kelly Madsen, Kim Hubach, Vida Ryan, Vidette Ryan, Lenise Marais, Kathleen Taylor, Farah Fredericks, Cindy Botha, Hanli Hattingh, Loreen Irvine, Tarryn Bright.

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