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Hockey squad must gel

By Mark Etheridge

South Africa’s men’s hockey side will have to hit the ground running at the Commonwealth Games in India next month.

The last time the team played a match was also in Delhi, back in March at the World Cup.

Coach Gregg Clark will have no easy task ensuring that the players knit into a unit and is well aware of the problem. “It’s always a difficult one. We had our two training camps the first in Durban and the second in Bloemfontein in early September. In between was the interprovincial in August.

“After the training camps our European based guys went back to their clubs, about 10 of them spread around Holland, Belgium and the UK, so for them it was a case of going straight back into competition. For the local guys they just had to carry on with their conditioning programmes etc. So there’s not that much time to work together.

“A week sounds like a long time for a training camp but there’s a lot of material to cover when you get down to it.”

First up for South Africa are four pool games, against Canada, New Zealand, Trinidad & Tobago and then England. “The last one will be the hardest and New Zealand will also be a tough game. We seem to have the wood over Canada recently but you really can’t afford to slip against anyone.”

Clark, a player for South Africa at the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur and Manchester respectively, says the squad hasn’t been hit too badly by injuries. “Wade Paton injured his shoulder at interprovincials, Julian Hykes fractured a finger at one of the camps and Lance Louw had a hamstring problem but none of them are too serious, they’ll obviously be checked out by the medical staff before we leave.”

At the last Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, South African ended fourth in their pool where they played Trinidad & Tobago, Pakistan, Malaysia and India. They beat Trinidad, drew with Pakistan and lost to Malaysia and India. They went on to lose 2-0 to Scotland in the seventh-eighth place play-off.


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