When the saying “time flies” was first phrased, the relevant person must have had the build up to an International Hockey tournament in mind because somehow, we are on the eve of the FIH Hockey Series Final in Bhubaneswar. The tournament is a Road to Tokyo Olympic Qualifying event, where the top 2 team progress to the Olympic Qualifying Matches later this year.
For South Africa’s Hockey Men, there is the added incentive that SASCOC will be using the event as a measure on the competitiveness of the side for inclusion in the Tokyo Olympics, with the goal of a top 2 finish to keep Olympic dreams alive.
South Africa’s Men have been in India for a couple of days and have prepared with two warm up games against India (3-1 defeat) and Poland (2-0 victory) ahead of the tournament. This was on the back of a successful three test home series a Randburg where they won all three encounters without conceding a goal.
Garreth Ewing has also made two changes to the squad initially announced. Before travelling Mo Mea withdrew and was replaced by Owen Mvimbi, while Dayaan Cassiem suffered a concussion in the friendly against India and for medical reasons has been withdrawn from the series. Tevin Kok has flown to India to join up with the team as a replacement.
South Africa were of course at the same venue in December playing at the FIH Hockey World Cup and speaking to the press in India Rassie Pieterse shared his thoughts: “The World Cup was not a good outing for us because as per our world ranking, we should have finished at least in No.8 - No.12 position but there were a lot of positives we have taken from that event and the team is confident of a good show here because we are familiar with this atmosphere, the stadium and the crowd and would like to use it to our advantage.”
South Africa are currently ranked 16th in the world but showed in bits and pieces at the FIH Hockey World Cup last year that they can thrill. In Nic Spooner and Bili Ntuli they have two men who know how to score on the biggest stage, while the experience of Tim Drummond, Jethro Eustice and Austin Smith will be pivotal in the chase for top 2.
South Africa’s first opponent will be USA, currently ranked 25th in the world. USA secured their place at the series when they won the FIH Open Series in Salamanca in Mexico. They are coached by Dutchman Rutger Wiese. Aki Kaeppeler, who plays club hockey Mannheimer HC, will be someone to keep an eagle eye on at penalty corner time while HC Almeerse player Deegan Huisman carries a big goal threat.
As far as I can go back on the FIH Tournament Management Site, there has not been a meeting between the SA Hockey Men and the USA Men. It promises to be a classic at 5:00 am South African time live on Supersport 8.
FIH Hockey Series Finals – South African Fixtures
06 June – South Africa vs. USA
08 June – South Africa vs. Japan
10 June – South Africa vs. Mexico
12 June – Crossovers
14 June – Semi-Finals
15 June – Final
SA Hockey Mens Squad
Tim Drummond (Captain), Matthew Brown, Taylor Dart, Tyson Dlungwana, Jethro Eustice, Keenan Horne, Ryan Julius, Tevin Kok, Nduduzo Lembethe, Owen Mvimbi, Siyavuya Nolutshungu, Nqobile Ntuli, Richard Pautz, Rassie Pieterse, Austin Smith, Matthew de Sousa, Nicholas Spooner & Alex Stewart.
Pictures - Hockey India