SA hockey men arrive in Dublin
Dublin - The South African men's hockey team arrived in Dublin on Tuesday ahead of their eight match tour of Ireland and Spain.
The 18-man squad, made up of the 16 players named in the SA Olympic squad as well as two additional tour players, will train in the National Stadium at the University College Dublin (UCD), before travelling to Lisburn, Northern Ireland, to take part in the Celtic Cup where they meet Ireland on Thursday.
Ranked 12th in the world, South Africa will use the tour, which includes two matches against 10th-ranked India and one against Spain (world number five), as part of their preparations for the London Olympics.
South Africa's goalkeeper Erasmus Pieterse said he was looking forward to testing the team's skills against some of the best sides in the world.
"This is a really important to for us," Pieterse said on Tuesday.
"We are preparing for the biggest tournament of our lives so we have to make sure we start concentrating on stick and ball.
"The Celtic Cup is the perfect tournament to start getting our rhythm going against Wales, Scotland and Ireland."
Following the Celtic Cup in Lisburn, the team return to the National Stadium in Dublin to take part in a three-nation Test series with Belgium and Ireland.
Pieterse added that the matches against the Irish and the Belgian teams would be tougher than expected, as the Irish were unlucky not to qualify for the Olympics, and Belgium had proved their prowess against the best in the world.
"It will be nice to play against a strong Irish team and then of course playing against Belgium," he said.
"The last time we played was at the Champions Challenge (Olympic qualifying tournament in Kakamigahara, Japan, in May) so it will be good to see how much we have improved."
SA head into the Celtic Cup as the highest-ranked nation ahead of Ireland (16), Scotland (22) and Wales (27).