For the defensive unit within the South African men’s side it’s been an easy ride at the African Hockey Championships so far.
They’ve had to deal with the sum total of three attacks in the two matches they’ve played so far at the Randburg Hockey Stadium. Their goalkeepers have touched the ball just once each.
After seeing off Zimbabwe 16-0 in their opening fixture they dismantled a hapless Botswana side 30-0 on the weekend and are gearing up for their first really competitive fixture when they take on Ghana tonight.
“It would be nice to touch the ball,” goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse quipped yesterday.
“But in saying that we’ve also got a defensive plan going forward to the weekend when the semifinals take place and the guys at the back have shown they can execute so if I’m not touching the ball it means they’re doing the job,” he added.
“So far we’ve played two of the so-called minnow sides and in both games we won comfortably but it wasn’t necessarily about the result. It was more about the process and making sure that we’ve found cohesion as a team,” Pieterse said.
‘It’s also been nice to see the guys scoring goals, goals that have come from really positive attacks. This is probably one of the best attacking units I’ve seen in South African hockey in a long while.”
He’s correct in his evaluation given that a number of South Africa’s scoring opportunities have come from open play, their slick style bamboozling defences. Their short-corners have also been brilliantly executed.
But Pieterse is aware that tonight’s game, against a side ranked 41st in the world, will be a better test.
“We know we’re going to meet a very fit team. You look at teams like Ghana and Kenya and the Africa Cup over the last few years and you can see they’ve improved. They’ve got better coaches, better players and their skill level is improving,” he said.
“They’re very unorthodox and not to be taken lightly but the biggest factor is focusing on our own game and what we are trying to achieve,” added Pieterse.