SA women's hockey team eager to meet Germany

2009-02-03 00:00

After a five-month break following the Olympic Games, the South African women’s hockey team get their first chance to test their skills when they meet Germany in the first of three Tests at Stellenbosch tomorrow.

“The Olympic players have had a good long break and are eager to get going, and I can see that they have come back from Beijing with renewed confidence,” said Spar SA coach Jenny King.

South Africa did not play against Germany in Beijing, but encountered the world’s third-ranked team on two occasions last year. The Germans triumphed in both matches at four-nation tournaments in Ireland and Argentina.

Germany might well target the SA midfield, as the unavailability of Lesley-Ann George leaves a hole, but her absence gives new cap Loreen Irvine the chance to stake her claim, albeit in a position unfamiliar to the central defender.

Up front, SA will be without the goalscoring ability of the bustling Henna du Buisson, who has a 50% strike record in her 34 Tests. The multi-skilled Kathleen Taylor — arguably Spar South Africa’s most talented player — steps into her shoes and her combination with the pacy Shelley Russell will be crucial to the home team’s chances, providing, of course, they get quality ball from those behind them.

Du Buisson is currently playing in France.

There are question marks surrounding the fitness of another quality midfielder, Tarryn Bright, and further uncertainty about Vida Ryan and new cap Dirkie Chamberlain’s readiness. With stalwarts Taryn Hosking and Fiona Butler both retired, plus injuries and other concerns, the home side are breaking new ground as new challenges emerge after Beijing, which makes for an intriguing series.

Apart from Irvine’s key responsibility tomorrow, it will be interesting to see the amount of game time that may be given to the other new caps — Cindy Botha, Julia Cass, Pippa Rabey and goalkeeper Hanli Hattingh.

The appointment of the most capped SA women’s player in history, former captain Lindsey Wright (formerly Carlisle), as assistant coach should add value to King’s endeavours in terms of plotting the downfall of the Germans.

“All the players look up to Lindsey. I used to admire the way she played and she brings extensive defensive knowledge with her,” King said.

Germany, with 14 of their Beijing Olympic Games players in the squad of 22 in Stellenbosch, are something of an unknown quantity due to the influx of eight youngsters into their showpiece team, but whatever their make-up the Europeans are always formidable opposition.

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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