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Johannesburg – The return of captain Marsha Marescia and veteran Pietie Coetzee has boosted the SA women's hockey team, according to assistant coach Fabian Gregory, as the hosts look to bounce back against Belgium.
South Africa lost 4-0 to Belgium in a four-Test series last week, and Gregory hoped the added experience of their senior players would assist his side as they prepared to square up against the Belgians once more in a World League match in Cape Town on Thursday.
While Marescia and Coetzee had missed out on the Test series, they returned to action on Tuesday, with Marescia earning her 300th cap and Coetzee bagging a brace to stretch her international record to 250 goals in South Africa's 6-0 defeat of Ghana in their World League opener.
“The way we have trained over the past few days and the addition of captain Marsha Marescia and world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee to our ranks has added huge value,” Gregory said on Wednesday.
“Together, Marsha and Pietie have over 500 Test matches worth of experience and have been at many major tournaments, and Pietie’s ability as an exceptional goalscorer in all phases, alongside Marsha’s consummate skills in the midfield, gives them a huge presence and frees up our other players.”
He added, however, that they would need to be on top of their game if they were to beat a Belgian side that dominated the Test series last week.
“We are still looking to make improvements in the attacking third of the field. It’s a major focus for us because we believe that’s where the match will be won or lost,” Gregory said.
Belgium coach Pascal Kina, a former technical advisor to the SA team, boasted a solid outfit that would be tough to beat as the hosts went in search of revenge.
“Pascal has a team that makes life difficult for opponents and in captain Charlotte de Vos, Jill Boon and Stephanie de Groof he has influential players that make the team tick, and if the opportunities present themselves, they will punish you,” Gregory said.
“This is the game Ä the other four count for nothing – we want to win this one and the players are exceptionally motivated.” – Sapa