Indoor hockey fans are in for a treat this week when the Spar Four Nations women’s tournament takes place at UKZN Westville’s sports hall, reports Jon Cook.
Australia, the USA, Namibia and the Spar South Africa women’s indoor hockey teams get the ball rolling on Tuesday when the Aussies tackle the Namibians at 7pm followed by South Africa against USA at 8.15pm.
‘The USA are a far better side now than when we saw them last time,’ was SA head coach Lennie Botha’s assessment of the Americans.
‘This is going to be a competitive tournament. Australia, for one, are a very good, attacking side who play with nice structure.’
All four countries will have to work hard if they hope to win this event.
Mirroring Tuesday’s action, Wednesday and Thursday also see double-header Test matches at the same times (7pm and 8.15pm), while Friday morning features the third/fourth place play-off and the 9.30am final.
The SA women’s team have just come off a 5-0 series whitewash of Namibia and go into the Four Nations in confident mood.
‘The SA team have grown tremendously during the Namibia series and the Four Nations gives the group another opportunity to test themselves against quality international opposition,’ said Botha. ‘It is going to be a very tight series,’ Botha added.
However, South Africa’s Test series success against Namibia hasn’t come without its casualties. It what was a hard-fought series against an underdog opponent who simply refuse to give up the battle.
SA striker Steph Baxter suffered a fractured forearm during the fourth Test and is out of the Four Nations, her place taken by North West teammate, 19-year-old Elmien Marais.
Also in doubt is SA’s Jessica Glass, who fractured a toe during the Namibia series. ‘We are going to strap it, we think Jess will be fit but the call will be made Tuesday,’ said Botha, who added that South Africa’s neighbours are growing with every outing and won’t stand back for anyone.
Head coach Trevor Cormack said Namibia were delighted to be invited to take part in the Spar Four Nations.
‘Lennie invited us and it is an honour to be here,’ said Cormack. ‘Although we lost the five Tests, I think we showed South Africa that our game is improving all the time.
‘Our objective, with a young side [three schoolgirls among them] is to grow the players’ experience,’ said the well-respected Namibia mentor.
‘Every Test cap under the belt adds value in exposing the team to this level of play. Being in this international tournament environment is also invaluable to the group.
‘And it gives us as a country the ideal opportunity to measure where we stand against higher-ranked opposition.’
The Four Nations takes place alongside the ninth edition of the hugely popular Nolands Pro Series indoor (PSi) Nationals Under-16 and U18 boys and girls tournaments, which features dozens of teams from franchises across the country and Namibia battling it out for title honours at a host of venues in Surf City.
SPAR SA TEAM
Amore de Wet, Celia Evans, Elmien Marais (North West); Amy Greaves (KZN Inland); Hanli Hattingh, Jessica Glass, Megan Robertson, Nicole la Fleur (Western Province); Jessica O’Connor (pictured above), Kara Stella, Shelly Higgo (KZN Raiders); Sarah Allan (Southern Gauteng).
Team management: Lennie Botha (coach), TJ Smith (assistant coach), Taryn de Winnaar (manager), Brighty Mashaba (video analyst).
SPAR FOUR NATIONS FIXTURES
(All at UKZN Westville)
Tuesday: Australia vs Namibia (7pm); SA vs USA (8.15pm)
Wednesday: USA vs Namibia (7pm); SA vs Australia (8.15pm)
Thursday: Australia vs USA (7pm); SA vs Namibia (8.15pm)
Friday: 3rd/4th Playoff (8.15am); Final (9.30am)