Low-key SA need to defeat Belgium in Hockey World Cup opener

It’s all a bit low-key, but another South African women’s sport enters into World Cup combat this weekend as Giles Bonnet’s hockey team take on Belgium on Sunday in their opening match in Terrassa, Spain.

South Africa, ranked 15th in the world, are in Pool D with Australia, Belgium and Japan, with the top side qualifying directly for the quarterfinals and the second and third-placed teams going into cross-pool playoffs to make the final eight.

Belgium, ranked second in the world in men’s hockey, may be an understated force in the women’s game, but they are No 5 in the world and the game has made great strides with the ladies in that north-western European kingdom as well. Bonnet had much to do with the growth of Belgium into a global force, coaching the men’s side for seven years.

With Australia being the third-ranked team in the world, it is crucial South Africa try and take some points off Belgium and 10th-ranked Japan if they are to make the quarterfinals.

It is South Africa’s seventh consecutive appearance at the World Cup and Bonnet, back as coach for the first time since 2014, has chosen a squad featuring a number of Olympians, including Lisa Deetlefs, a veteran of three Games who has reversed her decision to retire from international hockey.

Bernadette Coston, who played in the 2012 London Olympics under Bonnet, is also included.

Jean-Leigh du Toit, Kayla de Waal and Christa Ramasimong were members of the SA Junior World Cup team that performed admirably in Potchefstroom to secure a seventh-place finish and will also have the remarkable honour of playing in two FIH World Cups within six months.

“I have seen tremendous effort and energy from the team since my return to the post,” Bonnet said.

“We know we face a tough challenge at the World Cup against some superb opponents, but we are excited for the opportunity.

“I am really pleased with the team we have put together. There is a healthy mixture of youth and experience.

“We believe that we have the right tools at our disposal to compete against the best.”

Home favourites

With half of the tournament being played on their home turfs in Amstelveen, the prices are low that the Netherlands will complete a hat-trick of World Cup titles, although Argentina have form behind them, having won the recent FIH Pro League and having appeared in five finals before.

South Africa play Japan on Tuesday and then Australia on Wednesday.

SA squad

Quanita Bobbs, Marizen Marais, Erin Christie, Phumelela Mbande, Bernadette Coston, Edith Molikoe, Kayla de Waal, Kristen Paton, Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, Hannah Pearce, Lilian du Plessis, Christa Ramasimong, Jean-Leigh du Toit, Nepo Serage, Robyn Johnson, Shindre-Lee Simmons, Tarryn Lombard, Bianca Wood, Hanrie Louw, Onthatile Zulu.

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