Johannesburg, July 7 (IANS) India will take on South Africa in their first pool B match here on the opening day of the Women’s Hockey World League (HWL) Semi Final on Saturday.

The team led by Rani arrived here one week prior to the tournament which has helped them in their preparations.

Getting acclimatized to the conditions in the host city which is at an altitude of 1,753 metres was easier thanks to the high-altitude training held in Sports Authority of India (SAI) Centre Shillaroo before arriving for the event which is also a World Cup Qualifier.

“We had some good short training sessions here over the past week and the girls did well. They did not tire easily which was one of the main reasons to have the high-altitude camp. We have one session planned today (Friday) on the game pitch which will count as our final preparation before the start of the tournament,” India’s chief coach Sjoerd Marijne said on the eve of the match.

The Indians also played two practice matches against England and Ireland.

“Both teams are physically dominating when they play. So, the exposure against these two teams before the start of the tournament was good. I personally think South Africa plays a lot like Ireland. 

“We controlled the entire game against Ireland and against England we did well first half with better control. It is important for us to play disciplined hockey and if we are able to do that then we have a great chance of doing well,” Marijne added.

India have Chile, USA, Argentina apart from South Africa in their pool.

“The mood in the team is quite upbeat ahead of our first match. South Africa is ranked around us (No.13 in the world) and I feel we have improved a lot over the past year and are mentally a tougher team than we were before. 

“I am quite confident we will get off to a good start and then take it match-by-match. First goal here is to make it to the Quarter-Finals,” veteran striker Rani said.

While both South Africa and Chile are ranked below India at No. 13 and No. 20 respectively, USA and Argentina will pose bigger challenges for the team. While USA is ranked No.6 in the world, Argentina are ranked No.3.

“A lot of what we did in the camp over the past few months under Chief Coach Sjoerd involved mental training as a major aspect. We initially did have small mental blocks against playing higher ranked teams. 

“But I think we have overcome that and know that we must just stick to our plans, structure and give our 100 per cent,” stated an optimistic Rani.

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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