Head coach Giles Bonnet’s Investec South Africa women’s hockey team face a supreme test of their progress at 5 pm Tuesday and 12 noon Wednesday (SA time) when they take on world number one and home side Holland in Arnhem, the Netherlands.
Against world number three Germany at the same venue a fortnight ago, a thrilling encounter that world number 12 South Africa lost by the odd goal in seven, captain Marsha Marescia’s side took 15 minutes to settle into the higher tempo and rhythm of this level of opponent, whereafter the team matched the Germans in speed and technical skills.
“Against Holland today and tomorrow it’s a case of world number 12 versus world number 1 and we wish to evaluate where we are now in comparison to when we started our process,” the Amsterdam-based Bonnet said Tuesday. “We will also be introducing a new style of play and new combinations in these games. We have started a performance phase with the team and will now measure ourselves on output, while in the previous process phase we measured on potential.”
Bonnet said Germany had edged SA in their decision-making in specific moments on the field and added that this aspect of the green and gold side’s play would be specifically focused on in their 25 Test matches over the next three months.
“What was very pleasing to see against Germany was that the players were implementing skills that they have learnt over the past few weeks (in Holland) through the specialist training they have been receiving,” said the former SA men’s captain and coach. “The goal from Sulette Damons against Germany has been something she has been working hard at perfecting in training and it was extremely satisfying to see her deliver this skill in a top international match.
“It was satisfying to see that the players are beginning to realise that they are able to compete against the top four countries in the world and Holland is the next big test. The emphasis in the next eight-month period is to start to book results against this level competition and not to be satisfied with good, competitive matches.”
After Wednesday’s second Test, the Investec SA team fly to Argentina for two Four Nations events in December that includes the world’s second-ranked Las Leonas, the Argentinean women’s side who are the reigning World Cup champions.
The busy Investec SA team are then scheduled to play 16 Test matches against Spain, Ireland and Belgium at the Randburg Hockey Stadium from January 15 to February 6 before they depart for New Delhi, India and their all-or-nothing Olympic Qualifier final event that takes place from February 15 to 26.
Nothing less than a gold medal in Delhi will suffice to get the SA women to the London 2012 Olympic Games next August.
Investec SA Team vs Holland:Mariette Rix – Western Province Kate Woods – Western Province Illse Davids – Western Province Jade Mayne – Western Province Tarryn Bright – Western Province Shelley Russell – Western Province Kathleen Taylor – Western Province Marsha Marescia (Capt) – Southern Gauteng Lisa Deetlefs – Southern Gauteng Bernadette Coston – Southern Gauteng Catherine McNulty – Southern Gauteng Pietie Coetzee – Southern Gauteng Celia Evans – North West Sulette Damons – North West Nicolene Terblanche – Northerns Blues Dirkie Chamberlain – Northerns Blues Liesel Dorothy – Eastern Province Lesley-Ann George – Free State