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Hockey men take on GB

The South African Hockey Association have released the names of the national men’s team that will take on world number four Great Britain and top Dutch club Pinoke in Stellenbosch and Cape Town early next month.

The three-Test series against Great Britain forms part of the SA team’s preparation for the crucial Olympic Qualifier Tournament in Japan from 26 April to 6 May, which SA have to win in order to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Head coach Gregg Clark’s team will meet Great Britain ÔÇô an Olympic Games-only team which is predominantly made up of England players ÔÇô in three Test matches. The first Test is at 7pm next Friday, 3 February at Hartleyvale Hockey Stadium in Cape Town.

Great Britain, made up of England, Scotland and Wales, only play in the Olympic Games. The three countries play as separate entities in other international tournaments.

Clark is working with a larger squad, so there are six changes from the SA team that lost 3-1 to India in a five-Test series in Delhi this month.

While acknowledging the enormity of taking on the world’s fourth-ranked team, the head coach cited a number of improvements he is looking for against Great Britain as well as Pinoke. ÔÇ£We are moving in the right direction in terms of structure and general play. I am happier with our penalty corner defence, but we still conceded four goals from 16 corners in Delhi so there is room for improvement. The conversion rate on our own corners was reasonably high at the Champions Challenge in Randburg last November/December but in Delhi we only scored one from 16, which is very poor.ÔÇØ

Clark said the strikers are still leaving too many goals on the table but it was exciting that the team is creating lots of opportunities, a sign that the build-up play was spot on.

Conceding soft goals has long plagued the SA team and while there were some in Delhi, there was an improvement nevertheless.

Unlike the Investec SA women’s side, which has spent six of the last 18 months together and played around 100 Test matches, the world number 12 national men’s team do not have a major sponsor and as a consequence are probably the most under-prepared team in the world top 20.

ÔÇ£There is a lot of quality in our team but the fact we spend so much time apart means it is difficult to generate momentum and brings added pressure, as we often have to go from one major tournament to the next with little in between,ÔÇØ said Clark.

As the moment of truth in Japan gets ever closer, the recent Delhi trip and now the three Great Britain matches plus the two against Pinoke are most welcome.

SA MEN’S TEAM

Rassie Pieterse, Lance Louw, Clint Panther, Thornton McDade (all Southern Gauteng); Andrew Cronje, Austin Smith (capt), Ian Haley, Lloyd Norris-Jones (all Western Province); Brendon Botes (Eastern Province); Justin Reid-Ross, Rhett Halkett, Jonty Robinson (all Northern Blues); Wade Paton, Lloyd Madsen, Gareth Carr, Tim Drummond, Marvin Harper (KZN Coastal Raiders); Julian Hykes (Amatole-Border).

FIXTURESÔÇ¿

3 Feb ÔÇô┬áSA v GB┬á at Hartleyvale at 7pm

7 Feb ÔÇô SA v GB at Stellenbosch at 7pm

9 Feb ÔÇô┬áSA v Pinoke at Hartleyvale at 7pm

11 Feb ÔÇô┬áSA v GB at Stellenbosch at 7pm

12 Feb ÔÇô┬áSA v Pinoke at Hartleyvale at 11am


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