Our women’s hockey team’s task at the London Olympics later this year became that much clearer on Friday as their pool opponents were decided.
Head coach Giles Bonnet’s world No12 side will be meeting second ranked Argentina, third ranked Germany, New Zealand (sixth), Australia (seventh) and 10th ranked United States in the preliminary round of the Games.
ÔÇ£This makes our pre-Olympic event, the Four Nations in Bremen, Germany so important,ÔÇØ said Bonnet from his home in Amsterdam on Friday. South Africa will play against hosts Germany, New Zealand and a third country still to be determined at the Four Nations in Bremen, from 12-15 July.
Facing Germany and New Zealand in Bremen will give the shrewd SA coaching staff the opportunity to have an up-close-and-personal look at their Pool B opponents. Of course, the reverse applies, too, but the event will also serve to assess how the girls in green and gold cope with their higher-ranked opponents.
Pool A will feature world number one Holland, world four Great Britain, world five China, world eight Korea, and one of Ireland (14th) or Belgium (16th), who meet on Sunday to determine who the 12th and final country will be at London 2012.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿Since Bonnet took over the reins the record against their Pool B opponents in the last 16 months has been: beaten Argentina once, who have prevailed six times; lost twice to Germany, once to New Zealand, drawn once with USA.
The margins of defeat have narrowed over time, especially since December, when the SA team began to be picked on form and performance alone and not as part of a broader strategy. ÔÇ£We feel we have the chance to get results in Pool B,ÔÇØ said Bonnet. In Pool A, Holland and Great Britain are arguably ahead of the rest by a distance.
SA can target victories in Pool B with confidence. And two wins and perhaps a draw from the five pool matches, possibly targeting USA and Australia especially, could at minimum propel the SA team into the fifth-to-eighth-place play-offs ÔÇô a marked improvement on the 11th place achieved at Beijing 2008, and an outcome that would be the best SA has ever achieved at the four-yearly showpiece.