England and South Africa to clash on opening day of the Investec Challenge

[img_assist|nid=7215|title=Marsha Marescia |desc=Don’t be fooled by results in ‘unofficial’ tests|link=node|align=right|width=220|height=330]CAPE TOWN, February 3 – Marsha Marescia, the co-captain of the Investec South African women’s hockey team, said on Sunday that not too much can be read into the results of the unofficial internationals leading into the Investec Challenge, which starts at Hartleyvale Stadium in Cape Town on Monday night.

“Those matches were performance-driven rather than results-driven, whereas from Monday when we play our first Investec Challenge match [against England at 8 pm] the outcome will be very important,” said the 302-times capped Marescia, who will lead the team alongside Lenise Marais.

The Investec Challenge will see world number one and London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallists The Netherlands, world number four and London 2012 bronze medallists England (as Great Britain), world number six Australia and world number 11 South Africa playing each other in a round-robin format before next Saturday’s semi-finals and next Sunday’s medal matches.

The Netherlands tackle the Australian Hockeyroos at 6 pm Monday before SA lock horns with England.

South Africa’s form in the unofficial internationals over the past week has been encouraging. A 4-0 win over Australia and the 3-1 victory over England on Saturday sandwiched the 2-0 defeat to out-and-out Investec Challenge favourites The Netherlands.

“We want to play teams of this calibre,” said SA head coach Giles Bonnet. “The Investec Challenge is a major event and will be very tough, and we need to put pressure on ourselves to do the best we can, so our goals are driven by the pressure we want to put on ourselves as a team.”

England co-captain Laura Unsworth, who is sharing the leadership role with Susie Gilbert, said that the inexperienced players in her team need the pressures of being at an event of this nature.

“The players coming through the ranks need exposure against some of the best teams in the world and this will serve to give them that experience,” said Unsworth.

The Netherlands scored exceptional goals during their 6-1 win over Australia Saturday, although the Hockeyroos were much better in the second half and put the Dutch defence under heavy pressure.

It will take a lot, though, for the Hockeyroos to get a point out of Monday’s 6 pm clash.

Investec SA team: Sanani Mangisa, Lisa Deetlefs, Pietie Coetzee, Marsha Marescia (co-captain),  Bernie Coston (all Southern Gauteng); Shelley Russell, Jade Mayne, Quanita Bobbs, Tarryn Bright (all Western Province); Marcelle Keet (Amathole/Border); Lilian du Plessis, Phume Mbande, Dirkie Chamberlain, Nicolene Terblanche (all Northern Blues); Lenise Marais (co-captain), Kelly Madsen (both KZN Coastal Raiders); Sulette Damons, Celia Evans (both North West).

Investec Challenge fixtures (SA Times take off two hours for UK) 
Mon, 4 Feb 6 pm: The Netherlands vs Australia
Mon, 4 Feb 8 pm: South Africa vs England
Tues, 5 Feb 6 pm: The Netherlands vs England
Tues, 5 Feb 8 pm: South Africa vs Australia
Thurs, 7 Feb 6 pm: England vs Australia
Thurs, 7 Feb 8 pm: South Africa vs The Netherlands
Sat, 9 Feb 2:30 pm: Semi-Final 1
Sat, 9 Feb 5 pm: Semi-Final 2
Sun, 10 Feb 11:30 am: Bronze Medal Match
Sun, 10 Feb 2 pm: Gold Medal Matc