The South African men’s hockey team face a tough outing on Friday at Hartleyvale Hockey Stadium in Cape Town when they take on world number four Great Britain in the first of three Test matches in the Western Cape.
The Great Britain team is made up of players from England, Scotland and Wales. The three countries play as separate nations in other international tournaments and Great Britain only play in the Olympic Games.
The three-Test series gives SA head coach Gregg Clark the opportunity to test his squad against one of the world’s top hockey teams ahead of the crucial Olympic Qualifier Tournament in Japan from 26 April to 6 May, which SA have to win to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics.
The second and third Test matches are at the Stellenbosch Astro next Tuesday and Saturday, both matches starting at 7pm.
Captain Austin Smith’s world number 12 SA line-up will also play two international matches against top Dutch club Pinoke next Thursday and Sunday.
Clark’s team shows six changes from the SA line-up that lost 3-1 to India in a five-Test series in Delhi last month.
While the SA team are creating lots of opportunities, the Achilles heel of the talented men in green and gold has been the relatively high number that have not been converted.
However, that very ability to carve open defences suggests that the team’s build-up play is right on the money.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿The prevention of soft goals will also be an area of attention.
SA MEN’S TEAM
Rassie Pieterse, Lance Louw, Clint Panther, Thornton McDade (all Southern Gauteng); Andrew Cronje, Austin Smith (capt), Ian Haley, Lloyd Norris-Jones (all Western Province); Brendon Botes (Eastern Province); Justin Reid-Ross, Rhett Halkett, Jonty Robinson (all Northern Blues); Wade Paton, Lloyd Madsen, Gareth Carr, Tim Drummond, Marvin Harper (KZN Coastal Raiders); Julian Hykes (Amatole-Border). Head coach: Gregg Clark.
3 Feb SA vs GB┬á at Hartleyvale at 7pm
7 Feb SA vs GB at Stellenbosch at 7pm
9 Feb SA vs Pinoke at Hartleyvale at 7pm
11 Feb SA vs GB at Stellenbosch at 7pm
12 Feb SA vs Pinoke at Hartleyvale at noon