Our Investec South Africa women’s hockey team may have lost 2-1 to Belgium in the play-off for fifth place at the Champions Challenge in Dublin on Sunday but assistant coach Fabian Gregory is nevertheless happy with the progress made in the context of where the group is now.
ÔÇ£With the goals we had set it’s been a successful tour,ÔÇØ said Gregory. ÔÇ£It was a realistic outcome with the group we brought but if we had taken our goalscoring opportunities we could have comfortably made the semi-finals.
Gregory said SA had let themselves down in a number of games that they should have won convincingly despite the inexperience and youth of some of the players in the team and the absence of superstars like Pietie Coetzee and captain Marsha Marescia.
ÔÇ£Goalscoring is an area we have to work hard on in training but I am happy with the performance of our young players and also pleased that in Sanani Mangisa we have a very good goalkeeper who keeps you in the game for longer when you don’t have possession at times against top opposition, so when you do have opportunities you can get the one or two goals that change the result.ÔÇØ
Gregory said he was also happy with progress made in developing the new playing structure, which is based on putting pressure high up in the field, looking to be very direct once the turnover is made and playing at high speed.
ÔÇ£These are areas we can feel pleased with in a short space of time the group has been together, having not had ideal preparation prior to the tournament.ÔÇØ
The assistant coach said the wider SA squad have a camp in December where the brains trust are looking at a big group of players, with Test matches scheduled against opposition still to be confirmed afterwards. Some of those players will be back in January with others joining the group for another SA camp and probably a Test series that is still to be confirmed.
ÔÇ£The players are going into a big training phase now, before the camps, where we are looking to work on their physical strength, being stronger on the ball, and also working on explosivity. When we are looking to play very direct hockey we need to be explosive in the turnover and in the past it’s been an aspect that has been sorely lacking.
ÔÇ£Once we get to camp we will pick up on the technical component of our game.ÔÇØ
Gregory said the four SA Under-21 players in the national side in Dublin, captain Izelle Lategan, Quanita Bobbs, Tanya Britz and Lilian du Plessis, would do really well for their country in the Africa Qualifier Tournament for the Junior World Cup, which starts at Randburg Hockey Stadium on Saturday and ends with next Saturday’s finals.
The SA Under-21 men are also in the tournament. ÔÇ£The four will be able to add impetus to that team to excel, and we are looking for them to give top performances in Randburg.ÔÇØ
The SA Under-21 men and women kick off their campaigns on Sunday when the lasses face Namibia at 2pm and the lads tackle Zimbabwe at 4pm.