I have been fortunate enough to be at the PSI Hockey Nationals this week, which meant I was fortunate to spend a bit of time with the South African men’s indoor side as they took on the Denbey’s International All Stars in the exhibition series. In that time I got a chance to chat all things hockey with Pierre le Roux, the coach of the South African side. Pierre had been the assistant coach up to the 2015 FIH Indoor World Cup as well as previous outdoor assistant coach under Charlie Perreira. He has now been tasked with taking charge of South Africa in building up to the 2018 Indoor Hockey World Cup where we will be aiming to improve on 11th placed finish from this year. Here is our chat with Pierre at the conclusion of the Denbey’s International Exhibition Series.
Jabu: How has the Denbey’s Series been for you and Team South Africa?
Pierre: It has been immense. We don’t get an opportunity to play against this quality of opposition on a regular basis and its a great chance for us to test ourselves against the best and measure ourselves against the World’s best.
Jabu: We haven’t played test matches since the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup, is there a plan to play more matches going forward?
Pierre: Look, there are two major problems. The first is the exchange rate is weak which means its highly costly to get a European Nation here or for us to go over there. So Denbey’s has helped us with PSI Nationals in trying to get on board for another two series. The other problem is to fit in a series with the availability of the European Nations.
Jabu: Fantastic to hear. What about PSI as a breeding ground for SA Indoor Hockey?
Pierre: Simon Martin took a concept for PSI from senior players and he ran with it for schools. It’s been immense. I like to judge hockey by the quality of the u-13 players and that quality just keeps getting better and better. If they are this good at this age then they will only get better and that can only be good for SA Indoor Hockey.
Jabu: You have left out a few players out that were in the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup squad this year, selecting only four of them, are the others still in the frame?
Pierre: Two of the eight were left out as they are playing club hockey in Germany (Jarryd Jones and Richard Curtis), we then took the opportunity to select more to see the squad. We went to the Indoor IPT and selected purposefully to grow our squad and expose more players to international hockey. The 20 players in our squad now will be rotated and used along with one or two others that have been identified. This will develop a healthy level of competition within the team building to 2018 and that will be good for us.
Jabu: It’s not a foregone conclusion that we will go as we still have to win the African Qualifier?
Pierre: Yes, I wont get too confident, but realistically the only competition we have in Africa is Namibia and tournaments like this will only help us build a gap between us and them. The real problem is wherever the World Cup takes place it will be expensive and so arguably our biggest focus for the next three years will be fundraising.
Jabu: Looking back at the series that we have just completed, which international player impressed you the most?
Pierre: We saw the international ability back in the World Cup in February so we know them well. The goalkeeper, Laurens Goedegebuure, is the most effective player around. He does everything so simplistic and as a result is so effective. Then you have Robert Tigges, the skipper, who is exciting and flamboyant. He is also exciting because he brings a range of skills that is just different and exciting. They also had Benjamin Wess at the back, who is a retired German but playing top-level hockey still. They just have the wow factors.
Jabu: What about the SA Under 21 players that featured for the International All Stars in the series?
Pierre: Their priority right now is the U21 World Cup next year, so they didn’t play at IPT and weren’t considered for selection. It’s great to give them this opportunity and ultimately use this for a trial of their own as well. Playing in that team, with that quality can only be good for their hockey.
Jabu: Lastly, what advice would you give to the youngsters playing at the PSI Nationals this week?
Pierre: Pass, pass and pass. Just keep passing!