South Africa celebrate after scoring against Ireland in the 2017 Hockey World League Women quarter finals in July. Photo: Aubrey Kgakatsi/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - Sheldon Rostron is not only a coach but also a keen juggler as he will lead both the men’s and women’s teams to the African Hockey Cup of Nations in Egypt starting on Sunday.

He has been the head coach for the women’s side since Giles Bonnet resigned in 2014 and in August took up the reins as an interim mentor to the embattled men’s team.

“I enjoy the challenge, it is obviously a lot of work that has to go in to be able to prepare two teams,” Rostron said.

“Working with the two different groups has been quite a bit of learning and a nice experience and it would begreat to be able to be successful with both sides.”

The men’s side should receive most of Rostron’s attention as they aim to qualify for the Hockey World Cup in India towards the end of the year.

“The demand is obviously a bit heavier on the men,” Rostron said.

“That approach is focussed on how we go about dealing with the teams and making sure we get into the important playoff matches.”

The women’s team have already earned their place for their World Cup tournament in London after finishing fifth at the recent World Hockey League Semi-Finals hosted in South Africa.

Rostron’s has had an impressive run with the women; winning the African Cup of Nations in 2015, the World League semi-final in Spain in 2015, before qualifying the side for the World Cup.

While the dual role is a first in South African hockey, it is something that has been tried elsewhere when Carlos Retegui led both the Argentine men and women’s sides to bronze medals at the 2014 Hockey World Cup.

Rostron has five sessions between the teams alternating between three and two during their pre-tournament camp.

His focus with the women’s team is to gain as many points as possible on the world rankings.

“By doing that we fix some of the damage that was created of not going to the Olympic Games and it also helps us to set a platform for next year where we can break through the top-10 at the world cup.”

History favours both teams as the women will be looking to claim their ninth African title while the men are going after their eighth continental prize. The tournament will take place in Ismailia, Egypt from October 19 to 29. 

The men open their account against Zambia, before taking on Nigeria, Ghana hosts Egypt and Kenya. The women will also get their tournament underway on Sunday playing Kenya before taking on Nigeria, Zambia, Egypt and Ghana.

The Star

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