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All Star Austin, Marsha

By Mark Etheridge

South Africa have two representatives in the two 2009 World Hockey All Star teams announced this week.

Men’s captain Austin Smith, and joint women’s captain Marsha Marescia were named in the teams, chosen by global voting on the official world hockey website.

This was the fourth consecutive year that the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has named these teams.

The men’s and women’s teams are made up of 18 players and two coaches respectively.

Smith only this week returned from Salta, Argentina where the men’s side ended fifth in the BDO Champions Challenge Trophy.

Their next task is the World Cup in New Delhi, India in February/March, 2010.

Summing up the team’s performance in Salta, coach Gregg Clark said it was a most fruitful sojourn in South America.

“The tournament was very valuable for our group in terms of our longer term process to climbing up the world rankings. We managed to get the ball rolling in that department, and have now moved from 15th to 13th since the tournament results have been calculated. We should also gain further ground on China ┬á(10th) after the World Cup, as due to their no qualification for the World Cup, they won’t collect any points for that tournament.

“We also got some important wins over teams in a similar ranking bracket as us (Canada, Belgium, China), and doing this regularly is also an important stepping stone to ‘fighting in the higher divisions’.

‘We have pretty lofty goals as a team, and making the semi-finals in this tournament would really have been a great achievement for us. In the end, we needed a draw in our final pool game against Pakistan to achieve this. After dominating much higher ranked and more accomplished opponents in the first half, and deserving to be two or three goals to the good, we succumbed to their high paced counter attacking style in the second half when we made some poor decision making errors in attack.

“While this game cost us our semi-final spot, it was a great lesson for us in two ways: Firstly we realised that we could dominate high quality opposition for large periods of the game – even to the extent of being three or four goals better than them (in performance if not score), and secondly, if we deviate from the game plan, or make even just a few errors – they let quality opposition back into the game and turn the situation of a game on its head.”
On playing Pakistan, Clark said the experience was simply invaluable.

“We had a number of players playing against Pakistan for the first time, and they had never experienced them in full attacking flight (a ┬ápretty daunting experience at midday in 32 degrees Celcius heat!). Hopefully we have learnt our lesson, and we can put our chances away when they present themselves at the World Cup in March.

“We have both Pakistan and India in our pool, and both teams have the ability to play a similar counter attacking style if their opponents let the game become loose and open.”

Men’s and women’s World All Star teams
Salman Akbar (PAK),Pol Amat (ESP), Simon Child (NZL), Jamie Dwyer (AUS), Moritz Furste (GER), Myung Ho Lee (KOR), Ashley Jackson (ENG), Mark Knowles (AUS), Barry Middleton (ENG), Maximilian Muller (GER), Teun de Nooijer (NED), Eddie Ockenden (AUS), Jong Ho Seo (KOR), Rob Short (CAN), Prabhjot Singh (IND), Austin Smith (RSA), Taeke Taekema (NED), Christopher Zeller (GER). Coaches: Ric Charlesworth (AUS) & Markus Weise (GER)
Women: Naomi van As (NED), Luciana Aymar (ARG), Tina Bachmann (GER), Noel Barrionuevo (ARG), Madonna Blyth (AUS). Tony Cronk (AUS), Casey Eastham (AUS), Gemma Flynn (NZL), Baorong Fu (CHN), Surinder Kaur (IND), Natascha Keller (GER), Yibo Ma (CHN), Marsha Marescia (RSA), Miyuki Nakagawa (JPN), Maartje Paumen (NED), Helen Richardson (ENG), Janneke Schopman (NED), Belen Succi (ARG), Coaches: Carlos Retegui (ARG) & Frank Murray (AUS)