South African hockey coach Jenny King was a frustrated and disappointed woman after her side’s 5-1 win over Russia on Thursday in the SPAR Cup Tri-Nations series taking place at the Randburg Hockey Stadium.
King has placed a huge emphasis on the team’s strategy and the work they’ll be doing ahead of the Beijing Olympics taking place this year and this performance, though goals were scored often, didn’t reflect that.
“I thought this was the poorest we’d been in about 18 months,” said King. “The players have taken in huge amount of information in the past few weeks, but this was a step back for us.”
King also brought in Ian Jennings, who was the England assistant coach between 2000/03, to help put together defensive and tactical plans as they build towards the Olympics. After Thursday’s game, he too was disappointed.
“There were areas that were sloppy and that’s unacceptable,” reckoned Jennings.
“They can’t accept that mediocrity because that will hurt them in six months time.”
What was surprising was how the South Africans’ performance level dropped after the first goal was scored in the 6th minute. Tarryn Bright did some good work to get the ball forward and set Henna du Buisson up to slot in easily. That cushion saw them drop off the pace almost immediately and they never quite recovered from there.
Bright, however, was the only one to keep up the pace as she set Dirkie Chamberlain up for the second goal scored in the 31st minute.
She was rewarded for her work in the 37th minute when she slotted in to take SPAR South Africa three up. Russia, though, did well to come back and win a penalty corner on 44 minutes and Nedezhda Chegurdaeva easily smashed home to pull one back.
South Africa’s Vida Ryan, whose twin sister Vidette did not play on Thursday, then quickly scored again from a Bright pass in the 48th minute. Kate Hector, the SA vice-captain, missed a penalty flick minutes later, but scored her team’s final goal from a Kathleen Taylor pass in the 75th minute.
For King, her team deserved an eight out of 10 for their goal-scoring ability, but on overall performance, they were only a three.
“Our emphasis is not on results at the moment,” King continued, “and we have to be realistic about our performance. The simple things weren’t there and we have to be realistic – the performance wasn’t good.”
South Africa have the day off on Friday as Russia and Canada take each other on, but will be in action on Saturday in the final match of the series. Hopefully, there’ll be less frustration and disappointment then.