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Coach Gregory names SA side for World Cup

Friday was been the most emotionally draining day in South Africa men’s hockey team coach Fabian Gregory’s long career of guiding groups of players at all levels.

In the hot seat since February, Gregory, right, has had much to do in order to get a clear idea of who he wanted in his Hockey World Cup 2014 team ÔÇô he cast his net far and wide ÔÇô and Friday came the time to tell those unfortunate players who attended trials that they hadn’t made the team, reports Jon Cook.

The World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands is from 31 May 31 to 15 June so the physical and mental exertion put in by the 30-odd hopefuls over an intensive week at St Alban’s College in Pretoria has been palpable.

‘It’s been tough having to tell those who missed out on selection ÔÇô and to hear the disappointment that is so apparent on hearing the news, it is hard to deal with, but generally the guys took it pretty well as I emphasised that this is not the end of the road ÔÇô they come back into the selection picture for Commonwealth Games,ÔÇØ says Gregory while scanning the action at an U13 tournament in Durban, where his day job is director of hockey at Glenwood High School.

That said, Gregory is more than just pleased with the combination of youth and experience in the chosen 18.

ÔÇ£It is always difficult trying to match youth with experience but we have a nice balance and based purely on performance at camp this is the best group we have.ÔÇØ

A glance down the team list and one name hits you between the eyeballs ÔÇô much like his vicious penalty corner drag flicks have threatened to inflict the same damage on hapless PC defenders.

Justin Reid-Ross, possessor of arguably the most powerful drag flick in the world, is back ÔÇô and he has added stealth and guile to his armoury.

Reid-Ross hasn’t played for South Africa since London 2012 [Olympic Games] as he is establishing a career outside the game but had a very good second half of the season at his Dutch Hoofdklasse club, Pinoke, and has just signed for Amsterdam HC, the most high-profile club in The Netherlands.

ÔÇ£We welcome Justin back, he has been playing some outstanding hockey, has matured as a player and is a massive force at PCs ÔÇô he is probably flicking even faster now and has added another weapon with a disguised flick, which gives him more variety [and will keep PC defenders and goalkeepers guessing],ÔÇØ says Gregory.

Reid-Ross’s presence also gives SA variety at PC attack time, as alongside him will be the team lynchpin, captain and central defender Austin Smith. With the team’s talismanic Smith back after a foot injury sustained in the Hockey India League, the options open considerably as far as variations are concerned.

ÔÇ£Austin adds so much and his influence will be important as we will focus on our defensive patterns in training games against Holland, India and four Hoofdklasse teams in the final stage later this month.ÔÇØ

The team jets off on 20 May after a two-day training stint in Gauteng, starting 18 May, that will include an apparel presentation by kit sponsors Mr Price Sport at a World Cup Launch hosted by team co-sponsors Mugg & Bean.

SA WORLD CUP TEAM

Goalkeepers: Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng); Gowan Jones (KZN Coastal Raiders)

Defenders: Rhett Halkett, Austin Smith (capt), Dylan Swanepoel (all Western Province); Lloyd Madsen, Jethro Eustice (both Southern Gauteng); Justin Reid-Ross (Northern Blues)

Midfielders: Wade Paton, Taine Paton, Tim Drummond (all KZN Coastal Raiders); Clint Panther (Southern Gauteng), Jonty Robinson (Northern Blues)

Strikers: Julian Hykes (Southern Gauteng), Lungi Tsolekile, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Pierre de Voux (all Western Province); Ignatuis Malgraff (Eastern Province)

Picture: Rodrigo Jaramillo


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