South Africa women’s hockey stand-in captain Lenise Marais counts the support of the senior players and a gaining confidence among the new players as positives ahead of the team’s quarter-finals clash against Pool A leaders Australia, on Thursday afternoon. Supersport6 for live coverage at 16h30 (SA time). File photo: Ian Woods“We have taken the choice to expose our young players, we could have brought more senior players, but that would have been a lost opportunity of developing ourselves in the longer term, so from a strategic perspective the choice has been right,” said Investec South Africa women’s hockey team head coach Giles Bonnet in Dublin Wednesday, ahead of Thursday’s Champions Challenge quarter-final against tournament favourites Australia.

South Africa will face the unbeaten Hockeyroos in a match to be televised live on SuperSport 6 from 4.30 pm (SA time) Thursday, and it is a tough ask.

“Australia have a more complete team than we do at this stage but we are going to make it difficult for them,” said Bonnet.

South Africa, who lost 1-0 to Ireland and 4-2 to the USA before drawing 0-0 with Scotland, finished fourth in Pool B but the nature of International Hockey Federation (FIH) tournaments in this respect means that the eight teams meet in quarter-finals after the preliminary round has been completed.

Australia beat Belgium 4-1, India 8-1 and Wales 4-0 on the way to topping Pool A.

“The tournament is only starting now, and already we have achieved a huge amount,” said Bonnet. “And we can still get a lot more out of it, both in exposing the young players to this level and re-testing our way of playing against recognised teams in world hockey.”

The former SA men’s captain and coach is encouraged by what he has seen from the young players.

“Izelle Lategan has done really well, Lilian du Plessis showed good elimination skills, speed and good hands against Scotland, Quanita Bobbs showed by moments why she is in our Junior World Cup team, and although Tanya Britz did not play against Scotland I am sure she will show us

[her skill set] at the next opportunity.”

Durban schoolteacher Lenise Marais (27) goes into her fourth match as captain of the national team and the no-nonsense defender is growing into the role.

“I am fortunate to have a number of experienced players around me who have supported me really well, while it is also exciting to see the younger, less experienced players gaining in confidence with every match,” said Marais.

“We are all looking forward to the match against Australia.

Marais took over the reins from midfielder Marsha Marescia, who is not in Dublin due to the recovery period she is going through after injury at the London 2012 Olympic Games in August.

Apart from Thursday’s last-eight clash, SuperSport will also broadcast South Africa’s matches on Saturday and Sunday, regardless if SA are playing for placement or for a medal. Sunday’s final will also be televised, whether SA are in it or not.