SA’s women’s hockey team ‘ex­cited’ ahead of four-coun­try se­ries

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCKERT DE VIL­LIERS

STARVED of in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion for al­most a year, the South African Women’s Hockey team are pin­ing to get back onto the as­tro in the Cape Town Sum­mer Se­ries where they will cross sticks with Chile, Bel­gium and China over the next fort­night. Na­tional cap­tain Ni­co­lene Terblanche, stressed the im­por­tance of the team hit­ting their straps dur­ing the se­ries in a year that will cul­mi­nate in the Hockey World League semi-fi­nals in July which serve as qual­i­fiers for the 2018 Hockey World Cup. “The first six months are chaos, we have the Cape Town Sum­mer Se­ries then we have the IPT (In­terProvin­cial Tour­na­ment), PHL (Pre­mier Hockey League) be­fore the start of the Hockey World League semi-fi­nals,” Terblanche, a Tuk­sS­port ath­lete, told “It will be cru­cial for us to build up to the World League where we want to do well and make it into the fi­nals.” South African hockey shook off the dis­ap­point­ment of miss­ing out on a place at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and have set their sights on qual­i­fy­ing for next year’s World Cup. Ranked 13th in the world, the SA women’s hockey team will con­tinue in their pur­suit of crack­ing it into the top 10. Last year the team opened their sea­son with a 1-0 se­ries de­feat to In­dia be­fore se­cur­ing a 2-1 se­ries vic­tory over Scot­land, in­clud­ing an 8-1 rout at Hart­ley­vale. In their last in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ances in March 2016, they suf­fered a 5-1 de­feat to Ger­many be­fore forc­ing a cred­itable 1-1 draw. “We didn’t do what we wanted to do, es­pe­cially against Scot­land. And against Ger­many, we did well but with this se­ries we are pos­i­tive,” Terblanche said. “We last played in­ter­na­tional hockey in March, then it was Olympics and we just didn’t have any matches. “We want to crack the top-10 and top-8, that is what we are work­ing to­wards. It will be dif­fi­cult but if we buy into that process then we can do it.” South Africa’s fiercest com­pe­ti­tion should come from the eighth-ranked China while Bel­gium are one place lower than the hosts with Chile oc­cu­py­ing the 23rd spot. “We want to be com­pet­i­tive against China, we’ve never beaten them, so it will be dif­fi­cult against them. But we want to win the se­ries against Bel­gium and Chile. I be­lieve we can do it,” she said. The South African Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion (Saha) man­aged to fill the void of in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion when they launched the in­au­gu­ral Pre­mier Hockey League (PHL) in Septem­ber 2016. The lo­cal tour­na­ment is re­garded as the an­swer to clos­ing the gap be­tween South Africa and the top hock­ey­play­ing na­tions in the world. “Ob­vi­ously we didn’t have any hockey through­out the year, then came the PHL for the first time, so it was ex­cit­ing be­cause we got to play some hockey,” said Terblanche. “The great­est part of the PHL was play­ing with younger play­ers and other types of play­ers and giv­ing them the ex­po­sure of play­ing with ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers.” Af­ter mak­ing her Olympic de­but in London 2012, Terblanche was bit­terly dis­ap­pointed miss­ing out on a sec­ond ap­pear­ance at the global show­piece at last year’s Rio Games. Al­though Terblanche and the hockey fra­ter­nity are de­ter­mined to qual­ify for Tokyo 2020, she is not tak­ing her eye off the chal­lenges they face in the next year or so. “It is my big dream, I want to go to the Olympics again. I des­per­ately want to go to another Games. “Many of us have 2020 in the back of our minds but you can’t think of that if we haven’t qual­i­fied for the World Cup yet. “The World League is very im­por­tant and we want to do well there. It will be the big­gest tour­na­ment of its cal­i­bre in South Africa yet.”

South Africa open the Sum­mer Se­ries against Chile at Hart­ley­vale Hockey Sta­dium on Fri­day be­fore tak­ing on China at the same venue the fol­low­ing day.

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