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Sam spurs on our girls

Gideon Sam, president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), has given a message of support to captain Marsha Marescia’s Investec South Africa women’s hockey team, who have just embarked on a marathon 18 Test matches in 22 days.

Sam also gave Investec South Africa’s superstar goalscorer Pietie Coetzee the thumbs up in her quest to break the world all-time record of 220 goals in international hockey. “It is important for Marsha and the girls to do well to boost the team’s confidence. Every good performance now will help the team to feel good about the preparations towards qualifying well for 2012,” said the SASCOC president.

Sam gave a warm message of support to Coetzee, who now has 204 goals from 208 Test matches following her hat-trick in the 4-3 first Test victory over Azerbaijan in Johannesburg on Wednesday night and needs 17 more to rewrite world hockey’s record books.

“Pietie knows it would be marvellous for the country to share with her in the excitement of reaching such an important milestone,” said Sam. “Yet, we would like to say to Pietie, ‘play your game as you have done before and this milestone will be achieved with ease’.”

Coetzee, now 32, first represented South Africa as a 16-year-old Bloemfontein schoolgirl, yet in 2005 the pressures of top-level hockey led to the deadly finisher taking a five-year sabbatical from the international game to pursue other interests. If she hadn’t gone walkabout, who knows what the record would look like now?

South Africa beating world champions Argentina 4-0 in the fifth of the five-Test series at the University of Free State hockey centre in Bloemfontein last month drew Sam’s approval.

“That was a very good result after going down in the previous matches,” he said. “The lessons to take from that victory, is that it is possible to deal with the big guns.”

The head of South Africa’s Olympic governing body said playing against the world’s top teams is the way to go. “I hope the girls learned massive lessons from that win over Argentina. It is when we test our capabilities against the best that we know where we are in our development.

“Playing weak opposition, just for the sake of winning, will not give us a true picture. Losing against strong opposition may be a bitter pill, but we learn a lot in the process.”

After beating world number 14 Azerbaijan 4-3 and 3-1 in the opening Tests, world 12 South Africa meet the Azerbaijanis at Wanderers Club in Johannesburg on Saturday and Randburg Astro on Sunday. Kick-off is 5 pm.


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