International hockey returns to the Western Bay with four internationals between the Black Sticks men and Malaysia to be played at Blake Park over five days.
The internationals will be played next Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at the top class hockey turfs at the Tauranga Hockey Centre. New Zealand will then host Korea in four more tests at Lloyd Elsmore Hockey Stadium in Auckland from March 16-20.
It's the first international action for the Black Sticks men since the Oceania Cup in October, where they finished runners-up behind Australia. The series is important preparation for April's Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, which New Zealand head into as defending champions.
"Tauranga Hockey are very excited to be hosting the Black Sticks and Malaysia teams. It is a rare opportunity indeed for us to deliver, and for the public to be part of an international test series," Tauranga Hockey Association general manager Mike Kerrisk said. "We are looking forward to hosting the four test series over the five days and we encourage the Tauranga and wider community to turn up in their numbers and support the Black Sticks as they begin their build up to the Rio Olympics later this year."
Hockey New Zealand events manager Richard Palmer says it was a pleasure to bring the games to such a great location.
"We played there in 2014 with the Japanese men and in 2013 with a four nations women's event which was New Zealand, Argentina, Korea and USA. The Tauranga association is easy to work with. They have good management and they love their hockey and do it well. The Mount is always an interesting place for the people we are playing against because there are things to do, beaches, they like the promenade for training. It is just a nice place to be.
"It is fairly intense when you are playing four matches in five days but they want that sort of intensity as part of their build-up for Rio. It gives opportunities for there to be some changes in team personnel between what happens in Tauranga and what happens in Auckland, so they can still experiment a wee bit with players they are still interested in for the final Rio squad."
Hockey New Zealand's high performance manager Terry Evans said Malaysia were stronger than their world ranking would indicate.
"Malaysia are 13th at the moment but that really doesn't reflect where they sit in the world.
"They're a typically Asian team in that they play a really fast and exciting, attacking style of hockey which is exactly what we are looking for. An opponent who will really come at us and test us," Evans said.
The Black Sticks men's squad is yet to be named.
* New Zealand v Malaysia
* Men's international hockey series Blake Park, Mount Maunganui
* Sunday, March 6, 3pm
* Monday, March 7, 6pm
* Wednesday, March 9, 6pm
* Thursday, March 10, 6pm
* Tickets: dashtickets.co.nz