The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team get the opportunity to go 2-0 up in the three-Test series against Belgium this afternoon, when they meet in the second Test at Royal Beerschot Hockey Centre in Antwerp (3pm, SA time) on Sunday.
SA beat Belgium 4-1 in the first Test Saturday afternoon and yet did not deliver a top-notch performance in the first half, although there were periods of sublime play in the second, when the girls in green and gold netted three times.
“A lot of the things we are working on in training were evident,” Investec SA head coach Giles Bonnet said as the team left their hotel for the ground Sunday afternoon.
“The combination play, deflection balls, the width we had in the game, was impressive. At times defensively we allowed them too many opportunities but there were long periods where we were in control.”
The SA team left nearly 700 caps worth of Test experience at home with the absence of world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee (studies), and Les George, Jen Wilson and Lisa Deetlefs (injured) all out. It is a measure of the quality of the newcomers that this side was able to outplay the Belgians, who beat world number four-ranked Germany last weekend.
“We were much better than Belgium on the day and we hope to improve on that in today’s game,” said Bonnet.
“We need to make sure those chances they are creating are snuffed out, and that we are able to convert the many big opportunities that got away on Saturday, while if we can repeat the superb play in the second half and put it in for the full 70 minutes today I am confident we can earn another win.”
After today’s match, SA meet Belgium in a final test on Monday at 11am, before heading across the border to Ede in Holland for Test matches against world number-one, the Netherlands, on Wednesday and Thursday.
Captain Marsha Marescia’s side then tackle Scotland in Dublin, Ireland on Friday, next Saturday and Sunday, in a tour that steps up Bonnet’s preparation of his team in qualifying for London 2012.