Head coach of South Africa’s u17 girls’ hockey team, Omari Pienaar-Geyer says her side is relishing the opportunity to contest this year’s Mirnawan Cup in Malaysia, which is a little over a week away from its start.
The second edition of the tournament will see the SA u17 boys’ and girls’ sides jetting off to Southeast Asia, with both intent on causing upsets and bringing the respective titles back to Mzansi.
Geyer’s side possesses a wealth of experience, including four girls who represented South Africa at u18 level following the inter-provincial Tournament hosted in Bloemfontein this year.
In an exclusive interview with SuperSport Schools, the Waterkloof coach outlined the challenges she and her management team faced when selecting the team, which included considering a wide pool of players from all around South Africa.
“It’s always difficult when you have 42 players (18 u16s, 18 u17s, and six u18As) who are eligible and only 18 can make the team,” she said.
“It’s also tricky when you have to leave players out, but we love the fact that we have a pool of strong players and that we have a competitive environment.
“When the convenor and selectors sat down and discussed ideas…the selection was pretty similar, and we easily combined the team.”
In their pool fixtures, South Africa will face a stiff challenge, with matches against Malaysia (A and B teams), India, Australia, and Japan.
The team that tops the pool will face the second placed team from the other pool for a spot in the final, while the other nations will face each other according to their log standings to complete the final rankings.
The South Africans head into the tournament with little preparation together as a unit. The players had to prepare as best they could at their respective schools.
Geyer, however, believes the South African side will be in top shape come their opening fixture against Japan.
“Preparations can’t be described as perfect or the ideal,” said Geyer.
“We’ve been training on the same conditioning programme for five weeks, and we’ve had some centralised Astro sessions in our regions.
“We will embrace the situation and use the opportunity given, regardless of the circumstances we are in, not being able to train together, etc.”
The tournament is a massive opportunity for the players, coaches, and management involved. Good performances by the two national u17 teams, perhaps even winning a title, could persuade the South African Hockey Association (SAHA) and its sponsors to invest more in the sport.
However, for Geyer and her team, the opportunity is about realising dreams. She says it’s every girl’s dream to represent her country at the highest level, and she is happy to see this group do that.
“We would like to cause an upset or two, but our main goals will be relevant to the team and where we are as a unit.
“We also want to represent every single girl who has a dream to represent her country.”
South Africa will kick off their campaign against Japan on Sunday, 19 November, at 15:00.
Jehan Abrahams (Wynberg Girls’ High, Western Province), Caprice Bengston (Durban Girls’ College, KZN Coastal), Amber Fairon (Dainfern College, Southern Gauteng), Cassandra Forbes (St Mary’s DSG, KZN Coastal), Luane Janssen (Hoërskool Waterkloof, Northerns), Ruby Kraus (Durban Girls’ College, KZN Coastal), Mmamorena Manthata (Cornwall Hill College, Northerns), Motheo Manzi (Hoërskool Middelburg, Mpumalanga), Emily Macquet (Durban Girls’ College, KZN Coastal), Logan Marthinus (Bloemhof, Boland), Akhile Mdlalane (Cambridge High, Border), Thabelani Metu (Lilyfontein High), Ifeoma Ndubueze (Northcliff High, Southern Gauteng), Tara Pakendorf (Durban Girls’ College, KZN Coastal), Leah Petersen (Stellenberg, Western Province), Tanya Pieterse (Paarl Gimnasium, Boland), Georgia Pollock (St Mary’s DSG, KZN Coastal), Hannah Quinton (Monument, Southern Gauteng).
Manager: Sheridan Duncombe
Head coach: Omari Pienaar Geyer
Assistant: IIse Davids
Physio: Lisa Bone
Sunday, 19 November:
15:00- South Africa vs Japan
Monday, 20 November:
17:00- South Africa vs Malaysia B
Tuesday, 21 November:
19:00- South Africa vs Australia
Thursday, 23 November:
17:00- South Africa vs Malaysia A
Friday, 24 November:
15:00- South Africa vs India