SA MEN AND WOMEN LOOKING TO START WELL

JONATHAN COOK
in London

Both the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team and the SA men’s national side will be looking to build on their successful end to the World Cup when they take on Scotland and Ireland at 12 noon (SA time) and 6.15pm SA time respectively in the first round of the Investec Cup at London’s national hockey stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Wednesday.

The SA teams have a great opportunity to fine-tune things before the Commonwealth Games that start in Glasgow from July 23 by their participation in the Investec Cup in London, which also celebrates the opening of the new London Olympics 2012 legacy venue, Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre. The new world-class venue is now England hockey’s national stadium.

The four competing men’s teams in London are Commonwealth Games countries England, Scotland and South Africa, as well as Ireland. The four competing women’s teams are Commonwealth Games countries England, Scotland, Wales and South Africa.

“Will only have one training here before the Scotland match so we be looking at getting our processes right in that game,” SA women’s captain Marsha Cox said on the bus to the venue Wednesday afternoon. World number 11 SA beat Japan, the world’s ninth-ranked team, to finish ninth at the World Cup and if they get can back into the groove quickly it will stand them in good stead.

Double Olympian defender Lenise Marais, so cruelly denied a World Cup experience after serious injury forced her out at the 11th hour, comes back into the side.

SA men’s captain Austin Smith said after arriving at the team’s accommodation at East London University (ELU) that the Irish punch above their weight.

“The last time we met, before the Olympics in 2012 they beat us, and we will only have had one training session (Wednesday night) so we will be focussing more on getting ourselves familiar with the game plan and carrying on where we left off during the 6-2 win over Malaysia at the World Cup in June,” said Smith, who added that former SA men’s assistant coach Craig Fulton, now head of the Ireland coaching staff, will be familiar with the SA style of play.

SA’s Investec Cup fixtures (SA time)
9 July: vs SA women vs Scotland (12 noon); SA men vs Ireland 6.15pm.
10 July: SA women vs England 2.15pm; SA men vs England 8.30pm.
12 July: SA men vs Scotland 10.45am; SA women vs Wales 6.15pm.
13 July: Playoffs for final placings.