SA hockey teams set for a reality check at Indoor World Cup

SA men's indoor coach, Justin Rosenberg

SA men's indoor coach, Justin Rosenberg. Photo: @UJ_Sport/Twitter

Published Feb 3, 2023


Cape Town — South Africa's men's and women's teams are set for a reality check at the FIH (International Hockey Federation) Indoor World Cup, which starts on Sunday in Pretoria, at the Heartfelt Arena.

Tournament hosts South Africa have competed in four of the five previous editions of the Indoor World Cup, having only missed the 2011 event in Poznan, Poland.

The men's side recorded a 10th-place finish at Leipzig 2003, the inaugural edition, and that remains their highest placement to date.

The Spar women's team will be looking to better their previous best finish of ninth, which came at Leipzig 2015.

The SA men's team have a world ranking of 14th and will compete in Pool B along with Iran, the Czech Republic, Australia, the United States and Argentina. None of these teams have lifted the men's title before.

Austria, the defending champions, are in Pool A, along with Netherlands, Belgium, Kazakhstan, Namibia and New Zealand, who were invited after the withdrawal of three-time winners Germany.

Of the 12 men's teams, the Netherlands at No 2, enjoys the highest world ranking, followed by Belgium (3) and Australia (4).

The Spar women's team will be playing in Pool A along with the Netherlands, Austria, Australia, the United States and New Zealand.

The Pool B teams are Ukraine, Czech Republic, Namibia, Kazakhstan, Belgium and Canada.

In this group, the Netherlands are two-time winners and have a world ranking of No 1. The other leading teams in the 12-team field are Australia (3), Belgium (6) and New Zealand (9).

In recent years, the men's team have upped their game and were crowned continental champions at the 2021 Men’s Indoor Africa Cup after defeating Namibia 4-1.

Mustaphaa Cassiem scored 18 goals in the competition, with older brother Dayaan Cassiem bagging 16 and was named "Player of the Tournament". The Cassiem brothers, as well as Chad Futcher and Jethro Eustice have all been named in the squad for the six-a-side tournament and will be looking to thrill the home fans at the Heartfelt Arena.

SA men's indoor coach, Justin Rosenberg, feels the side will offer a strong defence.

“If we look at the pool that we find ourselves in, we have the likes of Iran, Czech Republic, USA, Argentina and Australia," said Rosenberg. "Iran and the Czech Republic are two major powerhouses. Both had successful previous World Cups and finished high up in the placings.

"Our opening fixture is against Australia, who are coming off a great series against New Zealand, so we will need to stake our claim here.

"Our squad includes an amazing bunch of guys. It is a great mix of youth and experience.

"Our backs are strong, with the likes of captain Jethro Eustice and the experienced Justin Domleo (42 caps). We also have some new guys in Dan Sibbald (13 caps) and Aiden Tun (20 caps) at the back and they know their way around.

"They are disciplined and are astute defenders. Our middlemen are magic.

" Up front, we are filled with flair, pace and thrill in Lungani Gabela and the Cassiem brothers. Chad Futcher is a towering man who can flick from any angle.

"In the goalkeeping department, we have Anton van Loggerenberg and Bongumusa Mngoma, who are absolutely amazing. The venue is spectacular and I think the fans are in for an absolute treat."

The women's team will be relishing the chance to take on the best the world has to offer in front of a home crowd in Pretoria.

Two seasons ago they were runners-up in the 2021 Indoor Africa Cup, with Namibia defeating the host nation 2-0 in the competition final in Durban.

Tegan Fourie, who is in the SA squad, was the competition's top scorer with 20 goals.

Also on the side is Edith Molikoe, another prolific scorer for South Africa. Together with Fourie, they form a terrific attacking spearhead.

“We find ourselves in the more difficult pool with the Netherlands and Australia ranked in the top three," said SA women's indoor coach Lennie Botha. "Playing those two teams is a challenge for all participating teams.

"Our team has been together for some time now, and thanks to sponsors Spar, we have managed to play a few of the countries and do some tours. We were able to blood some new players.

"We have a mixture of three very experienced players and some youngsters who have been in the system for two years. They have some international hockey time under their belts.

"Our players know what to expect. We are in a good space and I believe we are going to be competitive.

"Play in this tournament is an honour and accomplishment for the players and coaching staff.

"We can learn from the experience and if we play as we can, we will make it difficult for teams to beat us. We need to trust ourselves, our structure and our preparation thus far.”

The tournament starts on Sunday at 8.30am and continues until Saturday, February 11, when the men's and women's finals will be played.


IOL Sport

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