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Bonnet’s girls downed in China

An exhausted South African women’s hockey team have gone down in the first two Test matches of their gruelling tour to China.

The squad, in Beijing for an intensive training camp and Test match schedule, arrived in China on Sunday and it was immediately into training action.

Already the team have played their Chinese opponents twice, going down 7-1 on the first occasion and then 4-1 in their next game.

Apart from their tough training sessions under new coach Giles Bonnet, the girls are scheduled to play no less than 12 Tests against the Chinese.

Team captain Marsha Marescia said that while the team are exhausted it was “exciting times for the strikers and midfielders as we worked on various goal-scoring techniques that were neglected for some time. Exciting times for some players training for new positions.”

“Giles told us ‘Dare to play… if you are not trying something new or making mistakes then you are doing nothing.’

“Could this be the start of the new goal scoring machine team? I think so,” said Marescia. “With motivation like that from your coach, what more can one say?”

Describing the first game, Marescia said that without any internationals or camps in seven months the transition game was always going to be tough.

“The Chinese came out firing! The pace of the game was something a lot of the players were not used to. With two new caps in the mix (Nicole de Vries and Celia Evans) and the return of Marcelle Keets, Lesley-Ann George, Dirkie Chamberlain and Pippa Rabey, and the rest of us not having played in seven months, the game was tough.

“A valuable lesson learned, thankfully both countries agreed this not to be an official international but a game to allow players to settle in and gain that confidence Giles is trying to get out of each and every one of us. We lost 7-1. We allowed them to score soft goals and were punished for our errors. The good thingÔǪwe were now over the nerves, now used to the pace, and really understood the extent to which Giles wanted us to show some flair in our play.

The second international, although also ending in a 4-1 defeat to South Africa, was more encouraging.

Said player Kim Hubach. “We had a training session from 9-11am where we concentrated on the strikers leading in the circle and the defenders defending tighter and more physically. This training proved to be very successful in our match later in the afternoon.

We played some really good hockey in the first half creating many opportunities and one resulting in a fantastic goal by Dirkie Chamberlain who perfected what was learnt at training. The half time score was 2-1 to China. The second half was not as good as the first but SA showed a lot of guts and determination. Other goal scoring opportunities were created but unfortunately the Chinese proved to be the better team on the day.

“Still, exciting times lie ahead though for the next 10 test matches that the two teams face against each other and South Africa are learning some new tactics and tricks from Giles.”