The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team embark on the first of an arduous eight Test matches in nine days when they take on Belgium at the impressive Royal Beerschot Hockey Centre in Antwerp Belgium at 3 pm Saturday.
The confident Belgians recently won the Champions Challenge II tournament while SA ended a disappointing fifth at Champions Challenge I in Dublin four weeks ago, where they were widely regarded as the best team, having finished top of Pool A that included a 5-1 thumping of eventual gold medallists Japan.
An unpopular, experimental tournament format and an agonising 3-2 golden goal quarter-final defeat to Spain cost SA dearly. In the usual format SA would have gone straight into the medal matches.
Superstar striker Pietie Coetzee broke the world goal-scoring record in spectacular fashion with four against eventual silver medallists the USA but she isn’t on this whistle-stop tour due to university commitments, while the experienced Lesle-Ann George and Lisa Deetlefs (both injured) are also at home, leaving head coach Giles Bonnet’s side without 500 caps worth of Test match experience.
After today’s match, SA meet Belgium on Sunday at 3 pm and Monday at 11 am before heading across the border to Ede in Holland for Test matches against world number one the Netherlands at 4 pm on Wednesday and Thursday.
Captain Marsha Marescia’s side then tackle Scotland in Dublin, Ireland at 6 pm on Friday, 2 pm next Saturday and 9 am next Sunday on a tour that will be a supreme test of mental and physical strength.