30 May 2014
World record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee has made a surprise return to the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team following the withdrawal of double-Olympian Lenise Marais only days before the start of the Hockey World Cup in The Hague.
Due to pressing work commitments – and in her typical, low-key fashion – superstar Coetzee, the scorer of a phenomenal 280 goals in 281 test matches, had made a quiet early exit from the World Cup reckoning for the four-yearly showpiece that begins on Sunday for South Africa.
However, the enforced withdrawal of Marais this week, following a leg injury, gave Coetzee the chance to come in at a late hour for the event that runs through until 15 June.
A pleasant surprise
Going into her fourth World Cup odyssey, which began in Utrecht in The Netherlands in 1998, Coetzee said before late afternoon training on Thursday that her participation was a pleasant surprise, but it was unfortunate to come following Marais’ sad news.
“Yes, I feel for Leno [Lenise], but at the same time it is great to be here,” Coetzee said.
“We beat [non-World Cup side] Italy 5-2 in a training game this [Thursday] morning and my fitness is good,” she added.
South African captain Marsha Cox, like Coetzee, said she felt for Marais, but welcomed the star striker back into the fold.
Going into her fourth World Cup, Cox is a triple Olympian, the same as Coetzee, and is an icon in South African hockey and women’s sport. She said the forthcoming World Cup is a more exciting prospect now than ever before in her career, which began way back in 2001.
“It’s even more special in that the men’s tournament is taking place at the same time and at the same venue,” said Cox, now a resident of Amsterdam, who is married to The Netherlands assistant coach Alexander Cox.
Cox, who has represented the South African national team in a record 332 test matches, said the spirit in the side is good and preparation for the showpiece event has been productive. Apart from playing Italy, it has included training matches against back-to-back Olympic champions, world number one and 2010 World Cup finalists The Netherlands (0-3) and world number eight Korea (3-0).
‘Busy with the details’
South African head coach Giles Bonnet declared himself happy with the team’s preparations: “We are just busy with the details now, the small things, prepping for our first match on Sunday and looking forward to it.”
The girls in green and gold meet reigning World Cup champions, world number two, and London 2012 Olympic finalists Argentina at 19:45 on Sunday.
Unprecedented live broadcast
All the World Cup matches are at South African time (there is no time difference with The Netherlands) and an unprecedented all 76 men’s and women’s games will be televised live on SuperSport, which recently came on board as the South African national men’s team event sponsors.
The South African men meet back-to-back Olympic champions Germany in their opener at 10:30 on Sunday.