Hockey: Blacks Sticks facing bonanza of home tests as World Cup looms

By David Leggat

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A bumper period of international play is looming for the two Black Sticks teams in the next two months.

Confirmation of four home tests for the women's team against Korea and China provides an ideal lead-in to the inaugural Six Nations tournament in Hastings in April.

The games against Korea will be the first for New Zealand in Auckland since before the Olympic Games in 2012.

There has been an emphasis on taking the game to the provinces.

Hockey New Zealand hopes for a strong turnout at the games, to be played at the Auckland Grammar turf in Mt Eden.

The men's team - fresh off their silver medal at the World League 4 tournament in New Delhi last month - have three internationals against Japan in Mt Maunganui early next month as their lead-up to the Champions Challenge in Malaysia, where they will be favoured to win.

Both teams are off to the World Cup in The Hague at the end of May.

The women's team return from a successful trip to San Diego over the next couple of days.

They had a win and a loss against Britain, two draws and a last-minute win over the United States, courtesy of an Anita Punt drag flick from a penalty corner after the final whistle.

Women's national captain Kayla Sharland is pleased with the programme laid out for her side.

"Playing as many games as we can at international level definitely benefits us for the likes of the World Cup or Commonwealth Games [in Glasgow on July 23-August 3]," Sharland said from Honolulu, where the team stopped en route for home.

The San Diego trip had involved hard work for the squad and Sharland was pleased with the spirit of the players in the final game.

"It was a pretty full-on couple of weeks, seven games in 10 or 11 days and continuing our gym programme," she said.

"There were definitely a few heavy legs [in the final] but the girls pushed through mentally, which was good."

The likelihood is coach Mark Hager will look to tinker with the occasional selection for the Korean games.

But the China double-header is expected to mirror the squad for the Six Nations tournament - which in turn won't differ much for the World Cup.

What lies ahead

Women's Black Sticks (ranking: No5

March 28-29: Two internationals against world No8 Korea in Auckland
March 31-April 1: Two internationals v world No7 China in Taupo

April 5-13: Six Nations tournament, Hastings


Men's Black Sticks (No6):

March 12-15: Three internationals against world No14 Japan in Mt
Maunganui

April 21-May 6: Champions Challenge, Malaysia

•Both teams head to the World Cup in The Hague, starting on May 31.

- NZ Herald

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