South Africa Men’s Hockey team gear up for their FIH Pro League campaign
Dragflick Newsdesk : The 8 December 2021 was a day of celebration for the South African hockey community with the Executive Board (EB) of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) approving the participation of South Africa in the third edition of the Men’s FIH Hockey Pro League. Their first match will be against the Netherlands on 8 February 2022.
Whilst the national team’s participation is temporary and limited to this edition only, South African mens coach Garreth Ewing said the excitement ahead of the Pro League is real;
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to play, under pressure and against some excellent teams – the likes of Netherlands, India and Germany. Team morale is high post our AFCON win: The guys played well and we did what we needed to even though it was extremely stressful and demanding. We now have one or two days rest and then we’ll be fully back into it early next week.”
LOC Chairman Sheldon Rostron said that he’s been focused largely on the operational elements and event execution.
“A significant amount of planning has taken place between SAHA CEO Marissa Langeni as well as the FIH. Thankfully many items are already in place thanks to the preparation for the FIH Junior Women’s Hockey World Cup which will take place at the same venue from 2 – 13 April.
This is an incredible opportunity to deliver another world class event, showcasing our abilities to a global audience, with the timing being spot on as our country and world have been starved of sport these last two years.
The South African teams are also coming off the back of both Men and Women’s teams qualifying for the FIH Hockey World Cup – and a tournament such as this one simply boosts the program and preparation of the Men’s team: Our team from Tokyo will grow, be tested and gain experience.”
When asked how he thinks teams may perform in the tournament, Rostron says it’s been a quick start off the back of a difficult end to 2021;
“However, in saying that, the Pro League is known for quality hockey, exposure to new players and is a platform where experimentation is embraced. We have seen young players emerging; teams challenging the best and of course many a moment where coaches are testing and probing in order to unearth their edge.
It’s a super tournament to watch as teams battle it out for title glory and improvement of world rankings. Personally, I think it may be a challenge for our team to balance all the elements that affect both local and international environments but it will be a great platform for our depth to be tested and gives us good insight into the future.
The SA team is perhaps not as well prepared as other teams would be for the event: But it’s important that people understand that their focus is different to that of the higher ranked teams. This is a once off opportunity for South Africa to partake and I think the team will use it to gain as much knowledge as they can about themselves and their opponents.
In saying this though, I in no way mean to downplay the teams ability, determination and talent:
It has been well documented that teams use this as a springboard and opportunity for growth, and there’s no reason why coach Gareth Ewing cannot do the same, with a deep-rooted focus and hunger to succeed. The SA Mens team will compete, will challenge, will push, will thrive and I have no doubt they will surprise fans throughout the 2022 campaign.”
In conclusion, Rostron urges fans to stay glued to their Supersport screens;
“Back our boys because there is nothing that stops us from making this a memorable event and quantum leaping the SA Mens team and sport into a new direction. The event brings hope in many ways: Propelling hockey forward and is the moment that we have been waiting for.”
Perhaps the most anticipated match of this Pro League edition is SA vs Germany, currently scheduled for 17 February 2022, which will be the first time that the South African mens team faces Germany since beating them 4-3 in the Tokyo 2020 pool phase. Subsequently, that game was voted by the FIH fans as their second best match of 2021.