SA hockey women have fighting chance
Head coach Giles Bonnet’s world number 12 Investec South Africa women’s hockey team will be meeting world No 2 Argentina, world three Germany, world six New Zealand, world seven Australia and world 10 the USA in the preliminary round of the London 2012 Olympic Games, from July 29 until August 12.
“This makes our pre-Olympic event, the Four Nations in Bremen, so important,” said Bonnet from his home in Amsterdam on Friday. South Africa will play against hosts Germany, New Zealand and a third country still to be determined at the Four Nations in Bremen from July 12 to 15.
Facing Germany and New Zealand in Bremen will give the shrewd SA coaching staff the opportunity to have an up-close-and-personal look at their Pool B opponents. Of course, the reverse applies, too, but the event will also serve to assess how the girls in green and gold cope with their higher-ranked opponents.
Pool A will feature world No 1 Holland, world four Great Britain, world five China, world eight Korea, and one of world 14 Ireland or world 16 Belgium, who meet on Sunday to determine who the 12th and final country will be at London 2012.
Since Bonnet took over the reins the record against their Pool B opponents in the last 16 months has been: beaten Argentina once, who have prevailed six times; lost twice to Germany, once to New Zealand, drawn once with USA. The margins of defeat have narrowed over time, especially since December, when the SA team began to be picked on form and performance alone and not as part of a broader strategy. “We feel we have the chance to get results in Pool B,” said Bonnet. In Pool A, Holland and Great Britain are arguably ahead of the rest by a distance.
SA can target victories in Pool B with confidence. And two wins and perhaps a draw from the five pool matches, possibly targeting USA and Australia especially, could at minimum propel the SA team into the fifth-to-eighth-place playoffs -- a marked improvement on the 11th place achieved at Beijing 2008, and an outcome that would be the best SA has ever achieved at the four-yearly showpiece.