SA hockey sides chase World Cup spots

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - JONATHAN COOK

THERE was heart­en­ing news in the SA men’s and women’s hockey camps yes­ter­day as the teams made fi­nal prepa­ra­tions for the Africa Cup of Na­tions fi­nals at City Park Sta­dium in Nairobi this af­ter­noon.

Tim Drum­mond, the qual­ity SA mid­fielder who is also world-class in penalty-cor­ner at­tack and de­fence, was named as a new sign­ing for Delhi Waverid­ers in the Hockey In­dia League, while SA women’s for­ward Jade Mayne was de­clared fit to play.

With the fi­nal tick­ets to the 2014 World Cup the prize, both the SA men’s and women’s sides are aware of what is at stake. The men face old en­e­mies Egypt at 2.30 pm SA time while the women tackle Ghana at noon.

High Per­for­mance ad­vi­sor Bar­tel Berkhout said one-onone ses­sions with the play­ers at the Nairobi Club had been pro­duc­tive. “We spent 20 min­utes with each player look­ing at tech­ni­cal and tac­ti­cal el­e­ments of their play and then how to con­nect that to the over­all strat­egy.

“Egypt will do ev­ery­thing to dis­rupt our fo­cus and we must be­ware of fall­ing into that trap, (which) could see us give away yel­low cards.”

In­deed, what­ever the feisty Egyp­tians throw at SA, they must be able to get back on track and re-start the process with the min­i­mum de­lay.

SA head coach Char­lie Pereira said he didn’t want to change too much. “Why fix what isn’t bro­ken? We have im­proved game by game; our penalty cor­ners have been very good. One strong area of fo­cus is for de­fend­ers not to over­com­mit in the tackle, rather just hold the ball up and force them to make the first move.”

The SA women’s team’s as­sis­tant coach Kurt Cer­fontyne said Mayne brought en­ergy to the team as well as pro­vid­ing spark to the for­ward line.

Cer­fontyne said Ghana’s di­rect line to get­ting the ball to their pacy front-run­ners was a fo­cus area. “How we com­bat this was one as­pect of to­day’s train­ing ses­sion. Our coun­ter­cover de­fence will be very im­por­tant and we are hope­fully prepped for any sce­nario.

“What has been pleas­ing is how play­ers new to a se­nior Africa Cup tour­na­ment are be­com­ing more aware of what to ex­pect and the er­rors are start­ing to dis­ap­pear.”

It’s crunch time for SA hockey and there can be no greater in­cen­tive than to win gold and book a berth at the World Cup next May. that’s ex­actly what Charl Schwartzel did in the sec­ond round of the South African Open at Glen­dower.

He opened with three birdies, added another at the fifth, ea­gled the par-5 eighth (two-iron, five-iron, 20-foot putt) and then played a won­der­ful shot out of the rough over the lit­tle dam that fronts the green at the par-4 ninth to set up another birdie, and an out­ra­geously good out­ward loop of seven-un­der-par.

Schwartzel has 11 world­wide vic­to­ries in­clud­ing the 2011 Mas­ters to his name, al­though an SA Open win still eludes him. And when that 29 saw him climb to 12-un­der-par and join leader Marco Crespi of Italy in the club­house, it looked like the day was go­ing to turn into a Schwartzel land­slide. Quite sim­ply, he looked un­stop­pable. At last, maybe this was his time to win the SA Open.

But, as so of­ten hap­pens in this game, the un­pre­dictable played a hand and he missed a short putt to bo­gey 10, dumped his ap­proach in the wa­ter at 13 to drop another shot, and made four at the par-3 17th where he missed the green left. In be­tween birdies at 14, 15 and 16, he did lose some mo­men­tum but he would still sign for a 65.

Go­ing into to­day’s third round it’s Schwartzel and Crespi – he shot 67 yes­ter­day – lead­ing on 132, with Den­mark’s Morten Crum Mad­sen (66) next best on 133 and Chris­ti­aan Bas­son ( 68) fourth on 134. Jbe

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