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Johannesburg – South African women's hockey assistant coach Fabian Gregory is under no illusions about the odds as his team head into the Champions Challenge in Dublin, Ireland next week.
“For sure, it’s going to be tough,” said Gregory. Pool B is where captain Marsha Marescia and the South African line-up face Ireland, the USA and Scotland from September 29.
“But like us, if you look at Ireland and the USA, they are in a rebuilding phase, bringing new players into the system.
“Scotland are ahead from a building perspective, and without a doubt they could be our toughest opponents if you look at their training and how they are targeting this tournament.”
Pool A features top seeds Australia, fellow London Olympic Games participants Belgium, a new-look India – who SA beat in the Olympic Qualifier final – and Wales.
South Africa and the US are the other teams who took part at the Olympics.
Gregory added that the squad was excited to welcome six new players for Dublin who did not feature at the London Games.
New caps Lillian du Plessis and Quanita Bobbs, fellow youngsters Izelle Lategan and Tanya Britz, plus the young, yet experienced Jade Mayne and Kelly Madsen join the team for the tournament.
“The support staff want to assess their speed, elimination skills and ability to score goals,” Gregory said.
“We will provide the necessary technical and tactical support, but they have to bring something to the table to enable growth, and the Dublin experience will then bode well for Izelle, Tanya, Lillian and Quanita when they represent SA under-21 at the Junior World Cup Africa Qualifier Tournament in Randburg in mid-October.”
Missing Dublin but still available for SA are world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee and fellow Olympians Jen Wilson, Kathleen Taylor and Dirkie Chamberlain.
Kate Woods and Mariette Rix, meanwhile, retired after the London Olympics.
Gregory explained the need for the SA side to continue to grow and build toward the future as Coetzee looks to wind down her international career.
“We will also be looking at mental toughness. If you look at how slowly we started at the Olympics, have the players who were there grown from that experience?” Gregory added.
SA team: Nicolene Terblanche, Lillian du Plessis, Lenise Marais, Kelly Madsen, Sanani Mangisa, Marsha Marescia (capt), Lisa Deetlefs, Bernadette Coston, Lesle-Ann George, Tanya Britz, Izelle Lategan, Illse Davids, Shelley Russell, Tarryn Bright, Lauren Penny, Jade Mayne, Quanita Bobbs, Sulette Damons. – Sapa