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Hockey team look to build

By Mark Etheridge

Next week’s Commonwealth Games in India is the next step of our national women’s hockey squad’s journey to the Olympic Games in London, 2012.

The women’s team recently contested the World Cup in Rosario, Argentina where they ended in 10th spot, two places above their world ranking.

And coach Giles Bonnet was encouraged by that return as he looks ahead to New Delhi. “Rosario was a good event for us as a team as it allowed us to introduce a new style of play and to expose new players to a world event tournament.

“Two focuses were to place higher pressure in the field to force turnovers in the opposition half and the second was to create more circle entries that lead to more goal shots. We managed to achieve both of these targets and ended with an average of just over seven shots per game on the opposition goal.”

Looking ahead to the Commonwealth Games and Bonnet says the learning curve will continue. “Delhi will give us a chance to fine-tune the structure we used in the high pressure situations and we will be introducing slight modifications in this area to make ourselves more competitive. Linked to this will be improving the quality of circle areas and improving on the technical choices in the circle in the goal shots we are having.”

The Belgium based coach has targeted three areas that the South Africans will be looking to improve on

“Firstly our deep defence, namely our marking, pressure on the ball carrier and defence on free hits around the circle. Secondly the control we must bring in key phases in the game and linked to this is the turnovers that we are making in the field, this can be better managed.”

The third area that they’ll concentrate on is the build-up play. “We are too easily placed under pressure and will be tactically altering slightly our build up to allow ourselves to bring the ball higher in the field with less risk.”

Thankfully for Bonnet’s squad, injuries have not had too much of an adverse affect with only goalkeeper Mariette Rix staying at home to nurse a long-standing back injury. Her replacement in veteran striker Pietie Coetzee, gives the Proteas a lot more attacking options.

Bonnet, who only took over the reins of the women’s team in May this year, makes no bones about the team’s standing in relation to other countries. “At this stage in our preparations we are in a very different stage in our development as a team to that of the other countries who have been preparing for close on two years for this event. In our preparation we must be realistic and choose for longer term targets, namely London 2012.”

That’s not to say that the Proteas will not be aiming high in Delhi. “We will look to be as competitive as we can at this event but at the moment we are most probably positioned in our pool just behind Australia and India. Within a 12-month period as we continue on our ambitious program we have the ability to move ahead of both of these teams, but currently we need to be realistic of where we are.”

South Africa lost 4-3 to India at the recent World Cup in the ninth-10th place play-off.