SA men ready for Euro tour
Rhett Halkett (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - The South African men's hockey team look forward to getting back on the field after more than a month of training, defender Rhett Halkett said on Wednesday.
The national men's side begin their final preparations ahead the London Olympics when they depart for Europe on Monday.
"We've been training hard in the gym and pushing each other, so I think the guys will be excited to be on the field again," Halkett said.
"For us it's a time to gel together and time to get back to the field, enjoying playing for SA.
"The most exciting thing for us is the chance to play some international hockey before we go to the Olympics."
The South Africans will take part in the four-day Celtic Cup tournament - along with Ireland, Scotland and Wales - starting on June 28 at the Lisnagarvey Hockey Club in Ireland.
They will then face Ireland and Belgium in a four-day Test series starting on July 2.
The SA squad complete their European tour with a trip to Santander where they will play two Tests against India and one Test against hosts Spain, who have been drawn in the same group as the South Africans for the Games.
Halkett said it was encouraging to be able to play against the Spanish outfit before they square up against them at the Olympics, as it gave the management team some much needed information about their European counterparts.
"It's good to be able to play against a strong Spanish side," he said.
"We will look to take as much as we can from that game and to put ourselves in a good place before meeting them in London."
The South Africans have quietly been going about their preparations, having recently completed a strength and conditioning camp in Bloemfontein.
They last played a match at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Japan in May.
Halkett said the team reacted well to the training camp, having been put through their paces by Dr Derick Coetzee.
"Doc Derick really pushed us hard but we could immediately see the benefits," Halkett said.
"To see the benefit of all the hard work we've put in is fantastic. Now it's time to go back to hockey.
"Playing these Tests is a chance to put the last details into place before we go off to the real deal [London Olympics] next month."