Billed as the biggest tournament to take place in Ireland this year, the Setanta Sports Trophy sees some of the big hockey nations take to the field for the start of the Four-Nations tournament ending 17 June.
Ireland, South Africa, Scotland and Olympic Champions Germany make up the pool on the women’s side of the tournament, as the South African fixtures kick off today against the hosts in their first of four tests.
South Africa and Ireland last met in three tests at Stellenbosch during January, when South Africa won the first two matches 2-0 and 2-1 respectively, and came behind to draw the third 3-all in a thrilling finale.
Speaking to gsport from Dublin on Tuesday, national women’s coach Jenny King indicated that all 18 players were fit and available for selection for today’s opener, and that a minor groin injury to Kate Hector had been satisfactorily resolved after treatment.
“They really look very good,” King said from Ireland yesterday. “The training grounds are just a stone’s throw away from the hotel, so we just walk up to the field. The facilities have been excellent, the ice baths, everything’s been exactly what we’ve needed.”
“I think it’s a difficult one to go in and anticipate Wednesday’s match,” continued King, “Because they’ve just appointed a new coach in January, so I think what we saw them do in January, and what we see them do now six months down the line, there’s going to be quite a big difference in their style of play.
The team is well-aware that Ireland’s new national women’s coach, South African-born Gene Muller was previously the assistant coach to the local national women’s team when he took them to the Sydney Olympics, before accepting head coach position with the Irish women.
Would Muller be familiar with some of the players in our team? “Yes, I think so. He was very involved in Western Province when he was still in South Africa, so there’re a number of players he knows, and he was also at the World Cup, so they’ve definitely got a lot of footage on our team,” said King.
“I anticipate that their drag-flick would have stepped up quite considerably since January, so that’s going to be a little bit of a threat.
“But as I say, we’ve grown and we’ve developed quite considerably since then, so we’ll have a few chinks in our armoury that he won’t know about. But I also know that our team has made huge strides since the World Cup last year, and I’m still very confident that we’ll win against them.”
The South African National Hockey Squad:
Tarryn Bright (Western Province)
Cindy Brown (Western Province)
Fiona Butler (South Gauteng)
Lisa Deetlifs (South Gauteng)
Henna du Buisson (Western Province)
Lesley-Ann George (North-West Province)
Kate Hector (Western Province)
Taryn Hosking (Western Province)
Sanani Mangisa (North Gauteng)
Lenise Marais (Western Province)
Marsha Marescia (South Gauteng) Captain
Mariette Rix (Western Province)
Shelley Russel (Western Province)
Vidette Ryan (Western Province)
Vida Ryan (Western Province)
Kathleen Taylor (Western Province)
Jen Wilson (KwaZulu Natal) Vice-Captain
Coach: Jenny King
Assistant Coach: Fabian Gregory
Technical Advisor: Adrian Carolyn
Manager: Les Galloway