Hockey on a mission | SASCOC - SASCOC

Hockey on a mission

South African men’s hockey assistant coach Kurt Cerfontyne believes the team will want to prove a point with their remaining performances before the start of the 2012 London Olympics later this month.

Cerfontyne was speaking ahead of SA’s first of two matches against world number 10, India, on Sunday during their tour of Spain in preparation for the Games.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it, results are always going to be important to us,” Cerfontyne told Sapa’s PJ van Rooyen on Friday.

“This group of players that we have want to achieve things.

“In terms of the messages that you would be sending out to your opponents prior to the Olympics, is that this team means business.

“We beat Belgium on Tuesday, they are a team ranked higher than us, so its about preparation which is important in getting your rhythm and working on systems.

“But essentially the results still play a huge part in terms of how confident you go into game one, come the 30th of July [SA’s first match against Australia] in London.”

Not only is the match against India significant because the Asian outfit will also be in the Olympics, but also because it will be their first chance of playing on a blue turf.

The newly-installed astro turf in Santander is almost identical to the one which will feature in London, and Cerfontyne said the South Africans aimed at taking full advantage of their matches in the Spanish coastal town.

“There have been various reports from teams that have participated in Test events in London at the Olympic Park,” he said.

“Some of the teams weren’t too happy with the nature of the pitch and have said that it is a bit slippery and bouncy as well.

“At the end of the day for us, irrespective of what type of surface you are playing on, you have got to make those technical adjustments.”

Cerfontyne said, as with any Asian side, the Indians will be very difficult to stop on their counter-attacks when they turn over possession.

He added that India had been experimenting with different styles of play, dependent on their opponents’ layout.

Having played India seven times in the last seven months, including a five-match series in Delhi earlier this year, his side’s game plan would need to change accordingly in order to beat the sub-continent nation.

“In terms of where we are right now, we would look to stick to our structures and play to what works for us,” Cerfontyne said. “In the last four games, we have seen some good progression, but the consistency has been rough.

“Once again, an area we can still improve on would be capitalizing on scoring opportunities because we do create a fair amount of those.

“The second one for me would be just being a bit tighter defensively at times.”

After Sunday’s clash against the Indians, SA face hosts Spain on Monday, before rounding-off their tour against India on Wednesday.

Cerfontyne admitted that it would be a positive end to their 17-day trip overseas, which included a second place finish in the Celtic Cup and wining the Three-Nation tournament in Dublin against Belgium and Ireland.

“The more we get to play sides in the top 10 in the world, the more we get used to what sort of style they play,” he said.

“If we do achieve favourable results, for us that’s a massive box that we can tick in terms of the success of this European tour in general.”

South African men’s hockey team manager, Martin van Staden, on Saturday confirmed that SA’s last three matches will no longer be considered official Test matches and will only be considered unofficial Tests.

SA will therefore wrap up their tour of Europe and their preparations for the London Olympics with three unofficial Tests against India and Spain, with SA playing India twice, starting on Sunday.

“The games will only be friendlies and will not be FIH (International Hockey Federation) accredited,” Van Staden said.

“The rules don’t change and stay exactly the same. There are no changes at all in terms of preparations, we will still treat these like international Test matches definitely.”

The change in status means Andrew Cronje, who was set to earn his 100th cap for SA on Sunday against India, will now only achieve the milestone against Australia later this month, in SA’s first match of the Olympic Games.