SA hockey coach confident for quarters


Words: Jonathan Cook

“We like to play them and the history between us makes for an interesting game.”

After SA’s courageous and skilful performance against Germany (sixth in the world), SA will meet in-form Pool A winners Great Britain in the first quarter-final at 11.30am Thursday (live on SuperSport 7).

Photo credit: FIH media

These were the words of SA women’s hockey team head coach Sheldon Rostron from Valencia, Spain late Wednesday afternoon as his team continued final preparations for their World League Semi Final tournament quarter-final match against Pool A winners Great Britain, which starts at 4.30 pm Thursday (live on SuperSport 7).

“GB [Great Britain] are the only team with a 100% win record, they have been consistent, but we know they aren’t unbeatable.”

SA kept their Rio 2016 Olympic dreams alive with a spirited 0-0 draw against world number six Germany Wednesday, which set up the GB quarter-final. Rostron said the SA game plan had worked.

“Our main focus was to play conservatively, going forward with care and reducing unnecessary turnovers,” said Rostron. “We wanted to ensure we could defensively hold and sustain the pressures of the game and feed off the few opportunities they would give us. Small improvisations were needed to manage rotations and overloads, but I felt it all went to plan.”

The output of physical, mental and emotional energy was enormous for the girls in green and gold Wednesday. Will they be able to pick themselves up and do it all over again less than 48 hours later?

“We have shown ourselves that with individual consistent effort our structures are able to regenerate against the top teams of the world,” said Rostron. “This has given great confidence and players are all aware that a once-off will not be enough ... We are currently busy with our prep for GB and believe that the last game was the start of good things to come. We have not fired on all cylinders yet and as players and staff we want to ensure that the next match against GB is this game!”

South Africa’s senior players, who blew hot and cold in the earlier Pool B matches, really stepped up to set the example against the in-form Germans.

“The core of the team functioned well and were the building blocks that ensured an efficient performance,” said Rostron. “They were focused and communicating, driving the structure, and this energy was certainly the key.”

The buzz in the SA team against Germany was palpable, in contrast to the at-times anxious displays in the earlier matches. Rostron said it was a case of growing confidence.

“We have been playing in our shells ... We have a great structure and system that allows the players freedom to express their ability. Against Germany was the first time the players fully appreciated the benefits which that freedom brings.”