Hockey

'We will take things as they come'

WARMING UP FOR THE BIG BATTLE: South African women hockey players during a practice session in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

WARMING UP FOR THE BIG BATTLE: South African women hockey players during a practice session in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy  

For World No. 12 South Africa, which is the top-ranked and most-experienced side in the women's Olympic qualifier here, booking a berth in the London Games is not just another sporting milestone.

The keenness of the team, flaunting at least 10 Olympians, to earn its trip to London is rooted firmly in its determination to prove its worth, after it was asked to forfeit its slot in the Olympics (achieved as the African champion) and instead get a ticket to London through the qualifiers.

“Initially, it was very frustrating. Now we do not think about it. We have a job to do and we are focusing on that,” said Pietie Coetzee, who crossed the World record of international goals (220) in June last.

Experienced side

The side, captained by the most-capped player in the event — Marsha Marescia (275) — and featuring a dozen players with experience of more than 100 international matches each, is clearly in search of its self belief.

“The expectations will be there not only from outside (fans), but also from ourselves also.

We will take things as it comes,” said Marsha, during an interaction following the first training session at the National Stadium here on Thursday.

The team, understandably, has done its best to prepare for the Delhi test and is in super shape following a Test series against Spain and a triangular series involving Ireland and Belgium.

Will acclimatise quickly

Marsha, who played the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, was hopeful of the players being able to recover quickly from jetlag and acclimatise to the conditions before their opening encounter against the lowest-ranked Poland (28th).

She said the team's experience of playing here during the Commonwealth Games would come in handy.

“The first game will be interesting. It is an opportunity to see how things are moving and get a feel of the atmosphere.”

The 29-year-old captain said India, ranked a slot below South Africa, would be the team to beat. “They will be very tough at home,” said Marsha.

Pietie, a three-time World Cupper and two-time Olympian (2000 and 2004), added her observations about the home players. “Rani is very good and so is one of the goalkeepers.”

With her loads of experience, 33-year-old Pietie concluded with the most important point, “At the end of the day, you have to play well.”

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 2:55:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/hockey/we-will-take-things-as-they-come/article2900551.ece

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