It will be a remarkable achievement if the SA men (world ranking 15) reach the quarter-finals from Pool B as they are up against IWC silver medallists at all three Indoor World Cups so far, Poland (WR2), as well as Russia (WR3), Holland (WR6), Canada (WR7) and Switzerland (WR11). However, an upset win or two is “all” they need – and it’s not impossible.
Pool A is definitely where SA would prefer to be. It features world number one Germany, who have won all three Indoor World Cups, Austria (WR4), Czech Republic (WR5), Australia (WR8), Iran (WR10) and debutants Swede (WR17).
Iran and Sweden would be teams against whom SA would fancy their chances. And should SA not make the quarter-finals; that is where the cross-pool playoffs become so important.
Arguably the SA men’s team’s most accomplished player, PG Geldenhuys, and captain Dale Isaac are the most experienced SA players at international level. A remarkable eight of the 12 SA men either went to school or university in Pietermaritzburg.
Meanwhile, the Spar SA women’s team also have an overwhelmingly KZN flavour, particularly from PMB. They played a three-match Test series against Australia in Mannheim, Germany as preparation and lost 7-3 before drawing 5-5 and 5-5.
It was a phenomenal experience for the girls and great preparation,” said manager Emma Bray. “They have really grown both as individuals and as a team. Australia, being ranked sixth in the world, were the better team on day one but our girls stepped up and almost beat them in the second Test after taking the lead 4-1 at one stage.”
Cindy Hack, the SA captain, said, "Proper preparation prevents poor performance and this was the perfect opportunity to prove to ourselves that we can compete with some of the top nations.” SA also played Canada and beat them 5-2.
The Pool matches take place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with the cross-pool playoffs beginning on Friday evening and continuing Saturday into Sunday’s medal matches.
The action can be tracked at www.fih.ch and should include live streaming from the quarter-final stage. The You Tube channel becomes active from the quarter-finals, with match highlights and more being posted. The link is www.youtube.com/fihockey
There will also be coverage on facebook.com/fihockey as well as instagram.com/fihockey and twitter.com/fih_hockey #IWC2015 #leipzig #fihockey
Men: Richard Curtis (GK), Matt Fairweather, Geoff Abbott, Jarryd Jones, Mo Mea (all KN Coastal Raiders); Chris McCathie (GK), Justin Domleo, Ayden Shrives (all KZN Inland); Dale Isaac (capt), Craig Haley (both Western Province); PG Geldenhuys, Keegan Kieck (both Southern Gauteng). Head coach: Ryan Hack. Assistant coach: Pierre le Roux. Manager: Reggie Smith. Physio: Nick Pereira.
Women: Taryn de Winnaar, Faye Cooper (both GK), Amy Greaves, Tracy Martens, Eloise Walters (all KZN Inland); Shelley Higgo, Cindy Hack (capt), Kara Stella, Jess O’Connor, Kelly Madsen (all KZN Coastal Raiders), Celia Evans (North West). Head coach: Lennie Botha. Manager: Emma Bray. Stand-in manager: TJ Smith. Physio: Claudia Lepera.
SA men: Pool B (SA time)
Wed, Feb 4 vs Poland (4.15pm); vs Holland (11.45pm).
Thu, Feb 5 vs Russia (2.45pm); vs Canada (10.30pm).
Fri, Feb 6 vs Switzerland (2.45pm).
SA women: Pool B (SA time)
Wed, Feb 4 vs Holland (9.45am); vs Czech Republic (6.30pm).
Thu, Feb 5 vs Belarus (11.15am); vs Poland (6.45pm).
Fri, Feb 6 vs Kazakhstan (11.55am).