JOHANNESBURG – The Proteas men’s teams’ results sheet against the French may not make for happy reading but national coach Mark Hopkins believes there is a reason for optimism ahead of the Hockey World Cup in India next month.
France wrapped up the series 4-0 on Saturday claiming a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the hosts.
A lack of funding has seen the team go into major tournaments slightly undercooked due to a lack of international competition as was the case at the Commonwealth Games.
“The guys feel this is probably the best preparation we’ve had in a long time at a major tournament,” Hopkins said.
“We’ve ticked some boxes although the results have not gone our way but process-wise we’ve made some great strides so I’m chuffed about where we are in our preparations.”
p>Hopkins’ positive outlook did not mean he was satisfied with his charges’ performance over in the four matches against the French.
Another valuable outing against France last night🏑not the result we wanted but we’re working on our improvements for WC 🏆 We’ll continue to be better as a Team&put in the hard work which is always required at this level
📸- @MarcelSigg for @RunRideDive
🏑 #AbeSizwe #Amastokke pic.twitter.com/7iaM3tuCed
The team made a promising start to the series when they held the French to a 2-2 draw but things went slightly off the rails in the next two matches.
They suffered a 4-1 defeat in the second match the following day with the team doing well to get into the circle but battling to get the ball into the back of the box.
The Proteas made improvements in the third encounter going down 3-1 before turning in a gutsy display in their final match on Saturday.
“I’m frustrated with some of the lessons we are not learning quick enough, we just had (Saturday) a bit of a telling off to the guys,” Hopkins said. “But I am excited about what we can do, I think we’ve shown a brand of hockey that is really exciting.
“We just need to be more ruthless in the circle you see the progression we’ve made from game one to game four in terms of circle entries and shots on goal,” he said.