South African men’s hockey coach Fabian Gregory announced the team to contest the World Cup in The Hague from 31 May to 15 June on Friday. The return of penalty corner specialist Justin Reid-Ross is expected to provide the team with a big boost.
Reid-Ross possesses one of the most powerful drag flicks in the game, but he is much more than a penalty corner specialist alone.
He last played for South Africa at the London Olympic Games in 2012 before taking time out to establish a career outside of the game. Playing in The Netherlands for Dutch Hoofdklasse club Pinoke, he enjoyed a very good second half of the season and has just signed for Amsterdam HC, the most high profile club in the country.
‘A massive force’
“We welcome Justin back,” Gregory said in a statement. “He has been playing some outstanding hockey, has matured as a player and is a massive force at penalty corners. He is probably flicking even faster now and has added another weapon with a disguised flick, which gives him more variety [and will keep penalty corner defenders and goalkeepers guessing].”
Besides his effectiveness as a penalty corner flicker, Reid-Ross’s presence also gives South Africa variety at penalty corners, as alongside him will be the team’s lynchpin and captain Austin Smith. With the talismanic Smith back after a foot injury sustained in the Hockey India League, the options open up considerably as far as variations are concerned.
‘Austin adds so much’
“Austin adds so much and his influence will be important as we will focus on our defensive patterns in training games against Holland, India and four Hoofdklasse teams in the final stage later this month,” Gregory said.
Cutting the team down from 30-odd hopefuls after a week-long training camp in Pretoria was a difficult task, he added.
‘It’s been tough’
“It’s been tough having to tell those who missed out on selection, and to hear the disappointment that is so apparent on hearing the news, it is hard to deal with, but generally the guys took it pretty well, as I emphasised that this is not the end of the road. They come back into the selection picture for the Commonwealth Games,” he explained.
Gregory is nonetheless pleased with the combination of youth and experience in the 18 players he has chosen to do duty in The Hague
‘A nice balance’
“It is always difficult trying to match youth with experience, but we have a nice balance and based purely on performance at camp this is the best group we have,” he said.
The team jets off on 20 May after a two-day training stint in Gauteng, which will include an apparel presentation by kit sponsors Mr Price Sport at a World Cup Launch hosted by the team’s co-sponsors Mugg amp Bean.
SA WORLD CUP TEAM
Goalkeepers: Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng) Gowan Jones (KZN Coastal Raiders)
Defenders: Rhett Halkett, Austin Smith (capt), Dylan Swanepoel (all Western Province) Lloyd Madsen, Jethro Eustice (both Southern Gauteng) Justin Reid-Ross (Northern Blues)
Midfielders: Wade Paton, Taine Paton, Tim Drummond (all KZN Coastal Raiders) Clint Panther (Southern Gauteng), Jonty Robinson (Northern Blues)
Strikers: Julian Hykes (Southern Gauteng), Lungi Tsolekile, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Pierre de Voux (all Western Province) Ignatuis Malgraff (Eastern Province)
Source : SouthAfrica.info