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Testing times as new coach Gregory gets going
- Updated: February 22, 2014
New men’s head coach Fabian Gregory embarks on an exciting journey when his charges take on world No11 side Argentina in a five-Test series in Mar del Plata from Saturday to next Friday.
And for Giles Bonnet’s Investec South Africa women’s hockey team the mirror-image competition offers another stage in their build-up to a much-coveted medal placing at the Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow from 23 July to 3 August, writes Jon Cook.
There are big changes to the SA men’s side that suffered a 5-0 series whitewash against fiery Argentina head coach Carlos ÔÇ£ChapaÔÇØ Retegui’s team in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa two months ago and while it is in part due to the Hockey India League and major European club commitments of top players like captain Austin Smith and Tim Drummond, it is also a reflection of Gregory’s medium-term plan to develop a new group.
ÔÇ£Provided they perform, these senior players are definitely in my plans, while my focus is to build a team that will be competitive in two years’ time and able to medal consistently in the future,ÔÇØ said Gregory. ÔÇ£I will definitely be investing in the youth whom we believe can become world-class and deliver consistent performances to enable us to improve our world ranking, [which currently stand at number 12].ÔÇØ
Gregory has high hopes for his young, untried players. ÔÇ£New caps like Jaco Fourie and Dan Sibbald need to play now, in order to get the necessary experience. The main aim of this series is to see what level these players are at and the type of performance they can deliver. They will get a mandate to play without fear and will also know that we want to invest in them and make sure they grow to the next level.
ÔÇ£Despite the Tests, this is also a training camp and we will be having double training sessions as well as technical sessions on match days. Technically, tactically and mentally the players will be challenged, while the drive will also be for the players to challenge each other individually and in the group to improve on and off the field.ÔÇØ
Meanwhile, Scotland had five of their Great Britain players missing in the recent 5-0 series blank at the hands of the SA women in Pretoria, while SA were without several big names and a total of eight players who would have challenged strongly for inclusion.
The players missing effectively cancelled each other out and much of the interest in that series was in seeing how those selected would step up to the plate ÔÇô and in this South Africa were markedly better.
The Scots’ coach Gordon Shepherd was impressed with what he saw. ÔÇ£It’s the best South African team I have seen. Some tremendous players, a very fast team,ÔÇØ said ÔÇ£ShepÔÇØ of a side he had last encountered in a series in Edinburgh some time ago.
ÔÇ£South Africa’s number seven has been absolutely outstanding in midfield,ÔÇØ Shepherd said of Western Province’s Illse Davids.
Among a host of other SA players who distinguished themselves against Scotland, young striker Lilian du Plessis and high-energy attacking defender/midfielder Nicolene Terblanche caught the eye.
Superstar SA leader and midfield general Marsha Cox is back for the Mar del Plata series but other big names like triple Olympian and world record Test match goalscorer Pietie Coetzee are sitting out.
Argentina’s Las Leonas (Lionesses) are studded with world-class players in multiple World Player of the Year Luciana Aymar, as well as pacy, exciting young striker Agustina Albertario, experienced penalty corner drag-flicker Noel Barrionuevo and the likes of Silvina D’elia, Carla Rebecchi and Daniela Sruoga.
Leonas are lionised in their own country with legions of adoring teenagers and the not-as-young waiting patiently for autographs outside their hotel and at matches, and while the Argentine men are in the shadow of the national football team, mercurial head coach Carlos ÔÇ£ChapaÔÇØ Retegui is building a team of outstanding talent ÔÇô fine players in the likes of leader Pedro Ibarra, penalty corner machine Gonzalo Peillat and game changer Guillermo Schickendantz ÔÇô that is fast catching the imagination of the sports-mad public here.
The contrast in popularity of the Argentine men ÔÇôand their women’s side means that the men’s teams will play first in each of the five Tests, the matches at midnight (men)and 1.40am (women) SA time respectively, and while the women take centre stage here, the respective Test series should be fascinating contests between four teams in different stages of evolution.
Women: Luciana Aymar, Laura Aladro, Agustina Albertario, Noel Barrionuevo, Martina Cavallero, Silvina D’elia, Julia Gomes Fantasia, Agustina Habif, Florencia Habif, Giselle Juarez, Rosario Luchetti, Delfina Merino, Florencia Mutio, Carla Rebecchi, Macarena Rodriguez, Pilar Romang, Mariana Rossi, Rocio Sanchez Moccia, Mariela Scarone, Daniela Sruoga, Josefina Sruoga, Belen Succi.
Men: Alan Andino, Juan Cruz Agulleiro, Guido Barreiros, Joaquin Berthold, Santiago Camacho, Juan Gilardi, Matias Gonzalez, Pedro Ibarra, Juan Martin Lopez, Lucas Martinez, Joaquin Menini, Ignacio Ortiz, Matias Paredes, Gonzalo Peillat, Guillermo Schickendantz, Leandro Tolini, Juan Cruz Vila, Juan Manuel Vivaldi.
Women: Phumelela Mbande, Anelle van Deventer, Lisa Deetlefs, Marcelle Manson, Quanita Bobbs, Nicolene Terblanche, Marsha Cox, Shelley Russell, Tarryn Bright, Bernie Coston, Kathleen Taylor, Illse Davids, Jade Mayne, Dirkie Chamberlain, Lilian du Plessis, Celia Evans, Tanya Britz, Sulette Damons, Candice Manuel, Kelly Madsen.
Men: Rassie Pieterse, Gowan Jones, Jethro Eustice, Ashlin Freddy, Robin Jones, Dylan Swanepoel, Mohamed Mea, Matt Guise-Brown, Owen Mvimbi, Clint Panther, Jaco Fourie, Daniel Sibbald, Lungi Tsolekile, Cuan Burton-Moore, Pierre de Voux, Ignatuis
Malgraff, Taine Paton, Taylor Dart, Nicholas Spooner.
Saturday: 19.00 Argentina vs South Africa (Men); 20.40 Argentina vs Investec South Africa (Women)
Sunday: 19.00 Argentina vs South Africa (M); 20.40 Argentina vs South Africa (W)
Monday: Rest Day
Tuesday: 19.00 Argentina vs South Africa (M); 20.40 Argentina vs South Africa (W)
Wednesday: Rest Day
Thursday: 19.00 Argentina vs South Africa (M); 20.40 Argentina vs South Africa (W)
Friday: 19.00 Argentina vs South Africa (M); 20.40 Argentina vs South Africa (W)