South Africa’s hockey team kick off their internationally-sanctioned SPAR CUP tournament against Russia in Randburg this afternoon, in a six-test tournament also including Canada, following the home team’s just-completed three-test series against Canada, which ended on Sunday.
Currently ranked 12 in the world, South Africa has already qualified for the Olympic Games in Beijing in August, and will treat the tournament as a chance to sharpen skills and get further international competition.
"The tournament is very important to us," said South African coach Jenny King. "They have different styles of play, and with the Olympics coming up in less than six months, the more experience we have playing teams with different styles, the better.
"It is important for us to play a lot of hockey in a short space of time, as that is what will happen in Beijing. It will give us an opportunity to measure our fitness and to see how quickly we can recover from a hard game," said King.
The South Africans won the test series against Canada 2-1 on Sunday, with a 4-1 result in the final match the team’s best result, after an opening 1-all draw, and a 2-1 win in the second test on Friday past.
"What we need to do is make sure we get a number of circles entries, and capitalise on our goal-scoring opportunities," Kind added. "We are not going to get as many goal scoring opportunities in Beijing, so we have to learn to capitalise on the ones we get.
"I hope it’s very hot," continued King. "It is going to be very hot in Beijing, so we need to get used to playing in hot weather."