SA women set sights on Scots
Kelly Madsen (left) had an encouraging outing for South Africa against the USA in Dublin on Sunday. (Photo: Adrian Boehm)
Johannesburg - Assistant coach of the SA women's hockey team, Fabian Gregory, expects a competitive match when his team takes on Scotland in the Champions Challenge on Tuesday.
The team suffered losses to the USA and Ireland at the weekend.
“At 2-1 up against the USA we had enough goalscoring opportunities to put the game out of reach for the opposition and it’s a case of the players developing the mental strength to do so,” Gregory said.
“But there were lots of positives.
“Our young players are growing in experience and in their contribution on the field, and special mention must be made of Izelle Lategan’s performance, which included her first goal for South Africa.
"We are making it difficult for teams to defend against us and it is a question of converting those opportunities.”
Gregory believes goalkeeper Sanani Mangisa is doing her job in keeping the team in the game when it's under pressure, but pointed out that the squad needs to work on defending penalty corners.
“It was poor, and work also needs to be done on defending free-hits around our circle,” he siad.
Seven players who were part of the 2012 London Olympics squad were missing from the team.
“The SA team is in a new Olympic cycle and we would be failing as the coaching staff if we were not starting to build up young players for the Rio Olympics in 2016,” he said.
“The youngsters are learning quickly, while two players who just missed out on London 2012, Jade Mayne and Kelly Madsen, whose performance against the Americans was especially encouraging, are starting to put their hands up.”
The coach said a number of players were being tried in unfamiliar positions.
“This is process-based and you can’t expect to have an automatic right to win when you are throwing youngsters in at the deep end,” the coach said.
“Our sponsorship by Investec has been of paramount importance in allowing us to build a programme to grow the team to a high level of performance, and the result will be evident at the 2012 Hockey World Cup and Commonwealth Games, as well as at Rio 2016.”