The continued development of the national men’s hockey team was on the mind of Nelson Mandela University’s Cheslyn Gie after being named interim head coach last week.
Gie takes over from Garreth Ewing, who has stepped aside after being at the helm since the conclusion of the 2018 World Cup.
Having served as assistant manager at numerous international tournaments, including the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the Madibaz Sport hockey manager is well acquainted with the team.
His immediate focus will be on preparing the players for the FIH Nations Cup in Potchefstroom later this month and early December, followed by the World Cup in India in January.
In a media statement, SA Hockey advised that formal procedures would be put in place to appoint a fulltime head coach after the World Cup.
Gie said the opportunity to mentor the national outfit was an “absolute privilege”.
“We have made great strides in the past couple of years and will look to build on that in the upcoming tournaments.”
According to the new coach, the level within the squad was high and he felt that improving the current standard at the forthcoming training camps and international events was important in the team’s evolution.
As one of the country’s most respected coaches, he admitted that the top job had always been in his sights.
“It has definitely been a goal of mine”, said Gie, who has developed his coaching style in recent years to prepare him for the position.
He believed that he had also acquired the interpersonal skills required to manage athletes at the highest level.
“I have also had to grow tactically as a coach during this period to ensure the team is effective.”
Gie, from Gqeberha, has long been a mentor of the Nelson Mandela University team but said his elevation to a national level meant he had to continue tweaking his coaching skills.
“There is a massive jump from club or university coaching to international coaching. The game is played at a different pace and the technical level is higher, so an adjustment in approach is definitely necessary.”
The Nations Cup will be his immediate focus as it is a qualifying tournament for the Pro League and FIH World Cup.
Under the management of Ewing and Gie, the South African team have secured a number of significant victories.
None was more impactful than their 4-3 triumph over Germany in Tokyo, which ultimately led to an invite to the FIH Pro League for one season.
Another eye-catching result was SA’s first triumph over New Zealand in a major tournament en route to their first semi-final berth in the Commonwealth Games in 20 years.