“There is always room for improvement but generally I am happy with the performances so far,” South Africa men’s hockey team head coach Charlie Pereira said over lunch at the Fairview Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, on Wednesday in the aftermath of a productive training session.
“I would take 6-2 against Ghana any day,” said the coach of the opening Africa Cup of Nations match that took place at City Park Stadium on Monday.
A 2014 World Cup qualifier tournament, all of SA, Kenya, Ghana and Egypt have been remarkable in the commitment they have displayed on the pitch.
“Egypt on Tuesday was another step up,” said Pereira of the 6-1 win in which the men from Cairo never really had a look-in. Four penalty corner successes from four attempts against Kenya (captain Austin Smith) and Egypt (Smith twice, and Wade Paton) says much of the corner team’s skill.
“Corners are so important as they put fear into a team, who panic into defensive errors in the strike zone with the threat of conceding a PC in the back of their minds,” said Pereira.
“We have also scored some classic field goals, one-, two-, three-touch stuff that is so simple yet so precise in its construction.”
The players on the end of those sublime finishes have been Taine Paton (2), Lloyd Norris-Jones (2), Geoff Abbott, Clint Panther, Julian Hykes and Pierre de Voux.
SA, whose two wins from two puts them in Saturday’s 2:30 pm final, meet an upbeat Kenya in their final league-phase clash at 3pm (SA time) on Thursday and Pereira said that apart from some niggles the players are good to go.
Kenya need no further motivation than the knowledge that an excellent showing could clinch them a shot at gold and with it the chance to win a ticket to the 2014 World Cup.
“We won’t change our preparation, but what I will be looking for in this match is getting our one-on-one defensive skills up and minimising the amount of ball that is lost through unforced errors,” said Pereira.
“I have been really impressed with the youngsters as well as some of the old hands and I expect them to maintain that form against Kenya.”
Ghana and Egypt also have a chance of joining SA in the final, so there is much to play for when they meet on Thursday.
SOUTH AFRICA: Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng), Jacque le Roux (Western Province), Rhett Halkett (vice-capt, WP), Francois Pretorius (Northern Blues), Greg Last (KZN Coastal Raiders), Jethro Eustice (SG), Dylan Swanepoel (WP), Mohamed Mea (KCR), Austin Smith (capt, WP), Jonty Robinson (NB), Clint Panther (SG), Wade Paton (KCR), Taine Paton (KCR), Tim Drummond (KCR), Julian Hykes (SG), Geoff Abbott (KCR), Pierre de Voux (WP), Lloyd Norris-Jones (WP). Head coach: Charlie Pereira.