South Africa face a formidable opening match in the SPAR CUP, Four Nations women's hockey tournament at Queensmead in Durban Tuesday when they meet the world's second-ranked team Argentina.
Argentina are captained by four-time world player of the year Luciana Aymar, arguably the greatest player of all time and currently rated the world's best. She has 250 Tests behind her and is joined in the core of the team by women's hockey superstar Soledad Garcia (167 caps), Ayelen Stepnik (194), Marine Russo (179) and Claudia Burkart (191).
'Preparations have gone well, the facilities, people and accommodation is good,' said Argentine head coach Carlos Retegui, himself a 300-Test veteran of his country's men's side, from whom he retired two years ago.
Retegui's assistant, Adel Fuentes, who works alongside Santiago Capurro in Argentina's coaching triumvirate, said their team is an experienced one with an average age of 24.
'But we have three young uncapped players who are going to the Junior World Cup in Boston, Massachusetts in August,' Fuentes said. 'The team may be experienced but we are a new coaching staff, working together now for two months.'
Retegui said South Africa are a very physical team, strong corner defense, and have improved greatly in recent years.
SPAR SA coach Jenny King said more emphasis would be placed on what her players do on the ball, rather than the previous focus on defense.
'We will come with something unexpected, and if it pays off we can walk off with a win in every game, but we need to carry it off on the field.'
King said Argentina have a potent midfield, creating lots of overlaps, and in pre-tournament training looked in very good form, but it would be interesting to see if they could carry it off Tuesday.
South African Co-Captain Marsha Marescia said the six-day build-up had been a learning opportunity for the side.
Marescia said youngster Loreen Irvine had stepped in and virtually claimed a permanent place in the national team, while Kathleen Taylor has phenomenal flair and brings enormous energy to the squad.
King said the Australian Hockeyroos were a very young side with an aura about them and she predicts great things for them, in the future.
Against Oz and Argentina, King said the Proteas (average age 21) would have to be very mindful of their defence, limit the number of circle entries and catch them on the counter-attack.
India are a team SA will, target - they give sides a bit more space and with it the opportunity
Australia have the makings of a great team under Frank Murray and could be one of the best. Indications are that Indian is very skilful, lots of dribbling, but Australia fancy their chances against them, as they play a looser brand of hockey.
Team South Africa: Cindy Botha Cindy, Mariette Rix (co-capt), Lenise Marais, Farah Fredericks, Hanli Hattingh, Cindy Brown, Shelley Russell, Kate Woods (nee Hector), Vida Ryan, Vidette Ryan, Kathleen Taylor, Jade Mayne, Lisa Deetlefs, Roxy Turner, Marsha Marescia (co-capt), Julia Cass, Kim Hubach, Loreen Irvine.
Team Argentina: M. Belen Succi, Delfina Merino, Rosario Luchetti, Ayelen Stepnik, Alejandra Gulla, Luciana Aymar (capt), Carla Dupuy, Soledad Garcia, Carla Rebecchi, M. Laura Aladro, Macarena Abente Gaydou, Daniela Sruoga, Marine Russo, Claudia Burkart, M. Silvina D'Elia, Giselle Kanevsky, M. Noel Barrionuevo, Josefina Sruoga.
Tuesday 2 June 2009:
Australia – India
South Africa – Argentina
Wednesday 3 June 2009:
Argentina – Australia
South Africa – India
Thursday 4 June 2009:
Friday 5 June 2009:
India – Argentina
South Africa – Australia
Saturday 6 June 2009:
Bronze medal match and Final.
Source: BLD / Hockey South Africa