RANDBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 31, Mariette Rix of South Africa during the Investec Series Womens International Hockey match between South Africa and Ireland from Randburg Hockey Stadium on January 31, 2012 in Randburg, South Africa Photo by Duif Du Toit / Gallo Images

An abiding memory of the South Africa women’s hockey team qualifying for the London Olympics in Delhi seven weeks ago was goalkeeper Mariette Rix being embraced by SA’s No 2 ’keeper Sanani Mangisa, who rushed on to the pitch in her goalkeeping gear moments after the final whistle in the gold medal match.

Goalkeepers are a special breed. “Sanani and I … hours of training, often separate from the rest of the team. We love training together and things get very competitive, but in a good way. We are content with who is selected, as long as the team does well,” says the Beijing 2008 Olympian.

“I love training and the adrenalin, and the utter exhaustion of a hard session. You train for hours and may only get 30 seconds of play in a match, but there is nothing like making a nice save, knowing it has helped your team.”

Winning the ticket to London in Delhi was the most stressful experience of her career. “I would not want to repeat it. I have played other touch tournaments, but this was amplified, do-or-die. So many highs and lows. We have had a tough road to London, but it’s so worth it.”

An extremely well-organised person, to put it mildly, stands Rix in good stead when marshalling her defenders. “Some people think it’s a boring position. It’s what you make of it, plus you have the best view in the stadium! I try to get the defence in position early to stop a possible counter-attack rather than wait for trouble before we adjust.”

SA head coach Giles Bonnet cannot praise his keeper’s work ethic enough. “Over the past 21 months Rixie has worked very hard in specific technical areas and we have seen a marked improvement. The hours of repetitive training to create the automation needed as a goalkeeper has enabled her to keep the team in the game and make the crucial, key-moment save. This is Rixie’s key added-value as a player, and what she has been able to create through her experience and hard work.”

Rix’s mother, Estelle, has a special place in her heart. “Mom had to work hard, borrow money, to make my hockey possible, especially at school and for provincial tours. It was one of my proudest moments when I flew her to Joburg to see me play my 100th Test match earlier this year. It was a way I could say thanks.”

Is this SA team special? “It’s the most balanced team I’ve played in. My wish is that our results in London will show that.”

Now going to her second Olympics, is it more special this time, having been to an Olympiad before? “If I am selected, it will be more special than Beijing. Having played in the UK for three seasons, the close friends and hockey colleagues, London is the closest I will get to a home Olympics.”

Does her hockey career end once the road to London is done and dusted? “I have certain thoughts on this, but choose to leave this space empty for now.”

If the blood, sweat and tears expended over her career are anything to go by, Rix deserves everything of the best at London 2012.


AGE: 31

BIRTHPLACE: Caledon, Western Cape

HIGH SCHOOL: Gymnasium High School, Paarl

TERTIARY: University of Stellenbosch; B Psych (Cum Laude) (Family Counselling)

PLACE OF RESIDENCE in SA: No fixed residence


DEBUT: January 2005, Scotland, Potchefstroom

CAPS: 140 (an SA goalkeeper record)

OLYMPIC GAMES: Beijing 2008

WORLD CUPS: Madrid 2006, Argentina 2010

COMMONWEALTH GAMES: Melbourne 2006, Delhi 2010 (withdrew)

CHAMPIONS CHALLENGE: Cape Town 2009, Dublin 2011

PROVINCE: Western Province (4 SA titles)

INTERESTS/HOBBIES: Cooking, wine, reading, cricket, travelling, coaching

OTHER SPORTS: Squash – The Star