SA men’s hockey side off to Beijing

2008-07-03 00:00

The South African men’s hockey team have received a welcome boost in their build-up to the Olympic Games in China next month.

Coach Gregg Clark’s side fly to Beijing tomorrow for around two weeks, which includes team training and six practice matches against fellow Olympic contenders China on the actual Olympic Stadium Astro pitch.

The Witness learnt yesterday that this opportunity was made possible by former coach Giles Bonnet in liaison with China’s Olympic officials.

Michaelhouse product Bonnet is a consultant to the Chinese men’s team.

Aside from the airfares, China is funding the cost of the trip, which is a wonderful gesture from the Olympic hosts. The four reserves outside the Olympic squad of 16 — goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse, defenders Gareth Carr and Shanyl Balwanth plus forward Ian Haley — are also going along.

The Chinese and SA squads don’t mind playing each other so often in practice matches just prior to next month’s Games because they are in different pools in the 12-team, two-pool format.

For captain Bruce Jacobs and the SA side, there is the added bonus of playing six times in 12 days against Asian opposition.

The 12-day trip will also give SA the added advantage over their pool rivals in that none of the other countries will have spent much, if any, time on the Olympic Stadium pitch.

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