Team is on track, says Bonnet
Thursday and Friday’s back-to-back 5-0 defeats against reigning Olympic champs and world No 1 Holland does not faze SA women’s hockey team head coach Giles Bonnet.
Speaking ahead of SA’s third tour game, another unofficial international, against world No 4 Great Britain at 12 noon SA time Monday in London, Bonnet said he would have preferred 3-2 but the team has a specific programme in place where intentionally they are nowhere close to where they will be on July 29 and London 2012 game one against world champs Argentina.
SA had four-weeks’ intensive training interspersed with nine test matches in May/June where the team were at a high level, bowing out on penalty shootout against Holland in the Investec London Cup semifinals.
Three weeks’ physical training followed, no sticks, the playing level deliberately dropped in order to recharge to a higher level than at the London Cup by July 15 and the last tour game against Belgium
“We will taper off again [at Sascoc’s Team SA holding camp] before eight days training and playing [in London] ahead of the Argentina match on July 29,” said Bonnet. “Without this dip now, we wouldn’t go higher than the London Cup so the dip is necessary to ensure we get 20% better than at that tournament.”
Bonnet said the team is busy now with the small detail. “After defeats the girls are more receptive to explore things. Holland are going for gold [at London 2012]; we aim to be competitive; this is the difference, so it’s working out well, there is no negative reaction, there’s been a huge improvement [since SA’s arrival], a lot of energy and growth.”
Holland have chosen a different approach; recent weeks of intensive stick and ball with seven matches thrown in. Now they have taken the foot off the gas until July 29. Why?
“The Dutch have an intensive club season, the best league in the world; centralised training three days a week since January, they don’t have to travel and tour [like SA],” said Bonnet. “They have done all the detail we are doing now as they have so many contact moments.
“Their centralised training is paid for by their Olympic committee; they will maintain this level because of their technical skills. We do not have [paid-for] centralised training so have to do it differently. We need a periodisation.”
The lowest-ranked team in Pool B, what of South Africa’s final placing at London 2012? “We are good enough to compete for top eight but every team in our pool is playing for medals except us, so put that in context,” said the former SA men’s captain and coach. “[Nevertheless] We will probably be the most well-prepared SA team sent to the Olympics in the last 12 years and will be ready for this event.
“We will be pleased to make top eight; based on world rankings SA should finish last in Pool B, we are trying to change that, we know it won’t be at all easy.”
The USA beat Argentina last week; New Zealand has beaten Australia; Australia has beaten Germany. They are all in SA’s pool.
“We are going in with our eyes wide open, we will play a fantastic brand of hockey,” said the Amsterdam-based Bonnet, who made it clear at the beginning of his contract two years ago that the team will have fully evolved by World Cup 2014 in Holland, which will be the conclusion of the accepted four-year cycle.
“It is two years too soon to judge this team but what you must see is improvement and we have seen enough that excites us. It we fire in every game [at London 2012], anything is possible, we are really looking forward to it and don’t feel any pressure.”