Assistant coach Fabian Gregory is under no illusions as to what lies ahead for the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team as they head into the Champions Challenge in Dublin, Ireland next week.
“For sure, it’s going to be tough,” said Gregory of Pool B, where captain Marsha Marescia and the South African line-up will face Ireland, the USA and Scotland from September 29. The finals are on October 7.
“But like us, if you look at Ireland and the USA, they are in a rebuilding phase, bringing new players into the system. Scotland are ahead from a building perspective and without a doubt they could be our toughest opponents if you look at their training and how they are targeting this tournament.”
In Pool A are top seeds Australia, fellow London 2012 Olympic Games participants Belgium, a new-look India, who SA beat in the Olympic Qualifier final, and Wales. South Africa and the USA are the other teams who were at the Olympics.
The exuberance of youth, their ability to express themselves, will be something Gregory and company will be noting with interest of the six players for Dublin who weren’t at London 2012; new caps Lillian du Plessis and Quanita Bobbs, as well as fellow teenagers Izelle Lategan and Tanya Britz, plus the young, yet experienced Jade Mayne and Kelly Madsen.
South Africa’s number two under Investec SA head coach Giles Bonnet said the aim of the green and gold was to expose the new, younger players to this level of competition. “The support staff want to assess their speed, elimination skills and ability to score goals,” said Gregory.
“We will provide the necessary technical and tactical support, but they have to bring something to the table to enable growth, and the Dublin experience will then bode well for Izelle, Tanya, Lillian and Quanita when they represent SA U21 at the Junior World Cup Africa Qualifier Tournament in Randburg in mid-October.”
Missing Dublin but still available for SA are world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee, fellow triple Olympian Jen Wilson, double Olympian Kathleen Taylor, and London 2012 Olympian Dirkie Chamberlain. Triple Olympian Kate Woods and double Olympian Mariette Rix have retired.
“We will also be looking at mental toughness. If you look at how slowly we started at the Olympics, have the players who were there grown from that experience,” Gregory added.Investec SA team for Dublin: Nicolene Terblanche Lillian du Plessis Lenise Marais Kelly Madsen Sanani Mangisa Marsha Marescia (capt) Lisa Deetlefs Bernadette Coston Lesle-Ann George Tanya Britz Izelle Lategan Illse Davids Shelley Russell Tarryn Bright Lauren Penny Jade Mayne Quanita Bobbs Sulette Damons