South Africa joins the growing list of teams who have come with many young players to be exposed the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup Cup Men’s International hockey tournament starting tomorrow in Ipoh.
South Africa arrived in the wee hours of this morning for their third appearance in the tournament and declared that the tournament is testing grounds for their young players.
“Basically we have many players who we are looking at playing in the Paris Olympics,” said coach Garreth Ewing who has been coaching the South African national team since 2019.
South Africa joins teams like Korea, Pakistan, Egypt and even Malaysia, who relatively have young sides for the tournament, with many making their debut with their respective teams or have minimum number of caps.
Only Japan seems to have an experienced team here and have declared that they want to win the tournament.
But even Japan, decided to change their tune during the Press Conference for team managers and coaches this afternoon, when coach Katsuya Taskase, said his team too has young players he wants to expose in the tournament.
“A majority of our senior players who will be playing in the Nations Cup at home at the end of the month and the World Cup in India in January, are not here. They are playing with club teams in Europe,” continued Ewing.
“We have even included three players from our Under-23 team which played in Johor and shone.”
The three are defender Fawaaz Khader, midfielder Senzwesihle Ngubane and forward Cameron le Forester.
“We have seven players from the senior team here, while eight players will be making their debut with the team here, while another will be making his second appearance.
“Even our senior players do not have many international caps with Mohamed Mea having the most caps at 30.
“Most of the players here were selected from our league which ended in September,” added Ewing.
South Africa will open their campaign tomorrow against Pakistan , and although Ewing felt that they may have a slow start, having arrived from a long journey only today, but said he was not unduly worried about meeting Pakistan.
“We met Pakistan in our opening match at the Commonwealth Games recently and we drew 2-2. We will against met Pakistan in our opening game at the Nation’s Cup.”
Ewing also said that they had a good workout in the morning despite having just arrived a few hours earlier after the long flight and the players coped well.
“We definitely did not have any issues with the weather or getting acclimatised as we come from similar weather conditions.
“We are looking forward to the match tomorrow (Tuesday).
South Africa are currently ranked 14th together with Korea, Japan is 17th ranked, Pakistan 18th and Egypt 20th. Malaysia is the highest ranked on 10th.
Egypt was the last team to arrive this afternoon and immediately attended the Press Conference.
Egypt’s Pakistani coach Zaman Tahir, despite his team list showing several experienced players on list, he talked about his eight newcomers to the team.
“In any case we are the lowest ranked team in the tournament and we are certainly here for the experience,” declared Zaman.
This saw the attention shift to Malaysia who are the highest ranked in the tournament and both team manager Datuk Mirnawan Nawawi and coach A. Arul Selvaraj, said that ranking does not matter, but how the team performs on the day.
“All teams here, whether they have young players or ranked lowly, want to win their matches. There is not going to be any easy matches,” echoed Mirnawan and Arul.
“Every match is going to be a battle and as much as Korea wants to win their opening match, so do we wanting to start off on their right footing,” said Mirawan.
“Past results all come to nought, as all matters on the day of match is current form and performance.
All indications are that matches in this competition is going to be close and furious as teams battle for honours.