Women’s Hockey World League Semifinal: India takes on South Africa

Having arrived in Johanesburg one week prior to the tournament, the Indians have acclimatised themselves well to the playing conditions.

India played practice matches against England and Ireland ahead of the clash against South Africa.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar (File Photo)

Indian women will take on South Africa in its first pool B match of the Women’s Hockey World League Semifinal here on Saturday.

The team led by Rani Rampal arrived here one week prior to the tournament for some preparation time. Getting acclimatised to the conditions of the host city - which is at an altitude of 1,753 metres - was easier thanks to the high-altitude training held at SAI Centre Shillaroo before arriving for the event, which is also a World Cup Qualifier.

“We had some good short training sessions here over the past week and the girls did well. They did not tire easily which was one of the main reasons to have the high-altitude camp. We have one session planned today (Friday) on the game pitch which will count as our final preparation before the start of the tournament,” said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne on the eve of the match.

The women’s team also played two practice matches against England and Ireland. “Both teams are physically dominating when they play. So, the exposure against these two teams before the start of the tournament was good. I personally think South Africa plays a lot like Ireland. We controlled the entire game against Ireland and against England we did well first half with better control. It is important for us to play disciplined hockey and if we are able to do that then we have a great chance of doing well,” he added.

‘Upbeat’

India has Chile, U.S.A., Argentina apart from South Africa in its pool. “The mood in the team is quite upbeat ahead of our first match. South Africa is ranked around us (No.13 in the world) and I feel we have improved a lot over the past year and are mentally a tougher team than we were before. I am quite confident we will get off to a good start and then take it match by match. First goal here is to make it to the quarterfinals,” said striker Rani about the mood in the team.

While both South Africa and Chile are ranked below India at No. 13 and No. 20 respectively, U.S.A. and Argentina will pose bigger challenges for the team. While USA is ranked No. 6 in the world, Argentina are ranked No. 3. “A lot of what we did in the camp over the past few months under Chief Coach Sjoerd involved mental training as a major aspect. We initially did have small mental blocks against playing higher ranked teams. But I think we have overcome that and know that we must just stick to our plans, structure and give our 100 per cent,” stated an optimistic Rani.