Like rugger, playing attacking hockey, pleasing your fans, takes risk, u got to be prepared to lose the ball at times - and you got to be ready for that, proactive in getting the ball back to counter-punch …
This play could be the flavour of many matches at the upcoming Africa Cup for Nations tournament set to stage at the superb Randburg Hockey Stadium from October 23 to the 31 October/November 1 Finals Days.
History gives us great stories: September 2013 the Ghana women were inches away from the upset of the African hockey decade when they took the diluted SA team down to the last two minutes at a rowdy, pressure-cooker City Park Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya.
Risking the fates without the likes of superstars Marsha Cox and Pietie Coetzee, SA - the green and gold champions of Africa - were shocked by the deadly intent of Ghana ladies and nearly got bushwacked.
SA were overwhelmingly dominant on goalshots but the steely glint of no way through exemplified by the dogged Ghana defence and fleetfooted strikers feeding off scraps nearly upset the most assured of formbooks.
September 2013 Finals Day, the Ghana brains trust had crafted the most inspirational of game plans, played to their strengths and let the South Africans come at them in droves – and nearly pulled off the most amazing qualifier-earning berth to the 2014 Hockey World Cup.
The Egypt men nearly did the same in September 2011 at Bulawayo’s magnificent hockey stadium in the Africa Cup for Nations final for London 2012. A 1-0 win to SA was a nail-biting outcome off the back of a magnificent Egyptian effort and a steely resolve on the part of the men in green and gold who were missing kingpin captain Austin Smith through injury.
And Egypt, looking better than ever with newfound management team know-how, did the business in holding off SA before winning a dramatic shootout at a stunned Hartleyvale Hockey Stadium as early as March this year to deny the South Africans a place in the next round of World League action.
Now is the time, it’s just two weeks away, and the SA teams are readying themselves for the fight of their lives, praying all the time that it’s not going to be Fright Night City in the financial capital of the continent.
A quietly confident SA women’s head coach Sheldon Rostron told Jon Gericke in a revealing interview on SAFM Sports Special Sunday afternoon that the SA girls enter camp for two weeks from today, Monday, and prep was on the move for the threats that lie ahead:
“We have got a competitive pool of players in the SA mix and some, like Kelly Madsen and Sulette Damons were not considered and had to be left out due to injury, and other very good players missed the cut due to position-specific requirements we [the selection panel of Rostron, convenor Mickey Gordon and Jo Morley-Jepson] identified,” said Rostron.
“The Olympic Games and World Cup are pinnacles and if we succeed at Randburg some of the senior players will be encouraged to carry on.”
Not related, but in answer to the enthusiastic Gericke question about a player the consummate broadcaster identifies with, UK-based SA striker Dirkie Chamberlain, Rostron said the valuable asset with 10 years of experience in the national team was hungry for goals for the quality SA forward line.
“A new cap like Cornelle Botha is another I am looking forward to seeing in action and there are plenty others in the SA side who are sure to bring in the supporters.”
Rostron said SA would be up against [the two Z’s], Zimbabwe and Zambia as well as Tanzania in their group.
There will not be a moment where the girls in green and gold are not aware they are in a contest.
SA are set to open their match account on October 25, so will have two days to soak up the challenge ahead, as the first matches are scheduled for the October 23/24 period.
The SA men's squad are quietly prepping at home and offshore for the Africa Cup for Nations and meet on October 17 to train before the fortunate final 18 will be named on the 21st.
There are many questions about who will make the cut but one man who is putting his hand up right now is Amsterdam defender and drag-flick king Justin Reid-Ross who has been slotting goals in the European Hockey League’s EHL with the same explosivity he displayed in taking the goalscoring acclaim last season in the Dutch Hoofdklasse.
Just a sample of the SA men's and women's players who have been busy sharpening their skills in Belgium, the UK, Germany at home are strikers Lilian du Plessis and Jade Mayne, goalkeeper Sanani Mangisa and playmakers Clint Panther and Austin Smith, striker Taine Paton, and defenders Matt Guise-Brown and Rhett Halkett.
Whatever the outcome of the various permutations, the next month promises to be the most electrifying yet in Africa Cup for Nations history and the news that Ghana men and women as well as Tanzania ladies and Egypt men are preparing for their reach for a title dream like never before tells us that the result of the title challenge is very far from a done deal for SA.