Keeping the bigger picture in mind and giving promising youngsters the opportunity to play international hockey is the main focus for the South African men’s hockey team in the current Cape Town Summer Series.
South Africa is playing against Holland and Belgium in this series and all matches are played at Hartleyvale. Holland is the third best team in the world, played in the World Cup final in 2014 and finished fourth at the Rio Olympic Games. Belgium is fourth on the world rankings and won the silver medal in Rio. South Africa is currently 15th on the world rankings after not playing international hockey for almost a year. The last time they played against international opposition was during last year’s Summer Series.
The big tournament of this season is the World League during July. This tournament is a World Cup qualifying event. According to Tim Drummond, captain of the men’s team, that is what they are working towards and that the Summer Series is vital in preparation for World League.
In the first two matches of the Summer Series against the Dutch the South African showed some promise, but conceded 13 goals and scored only 3.
“Sunday is a very important game for our squad. It's another opportunity to play one of the top hockey nations in the world which is an incredible chance for us to see if we have grown in our abilities as a collective and individually over the series,” said Drummond.
“We have emphasised our defensive structure as we have conceded a lot of goals, but for me, I would like us to be more positive in our actions to create more scoring opportunities.”
South Africa has chosen a very young squad for the Summer Series with various players from the SA u21 team that finished 10th at the recent World Cup; the best ever showing by a South African u21 team at a Junior World Cup. Some of these players include the captain Alex Stewart, Ryan Julius and Bili Ntuli (who captain the SA u19 team at the Youth Olympics a few years ago where they finished fourth). The 18-year-old Dayaan Cassiem from Bishops also made his debut in this series and Andrew Hobson who matriculated from Paul Roos Gymnasium last year is also in the squad.
“We have a good balance of experience and youth and it's important the younger members play with freedom and play the type hockey which earned them a place in this team. We will be pushing hard for the last game and showing plenty more desire as a squad to get a win against the Dutch on Sunday!” Drummond added.
Sunday’s match is at 18:00. It will be the last game against the Dutch before the matches against Belgium starts.