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