There won't be any surprises for the Black Sticks when they chase a third victory at the annual Azlan Shah men's tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia from this weekend.

The extreme heat, a tropical 33degC average, necessitates playing smart hockey, trying to conserve energy, and acting captain Arun Panchia reckons his players will know what to expect.

New Zealand are regular visitors to the tournament - they have won it twice, in 2012 and 2015 - and expect his team to be highly competitive.

The leadup didn't go as well as would have been hoped, after an 8-3 tonking by the hosts in Kuala Lumpur, followed by a 3-3 draw yesterday, but getting quality games behind them won't hurt the world No 8 side ahead of the opener against defending champions and world No 1 Australia on Saturday night.


''Traditionally the team has done well. It's a tough competition and we're looking forward to getting tested and playing a few different oppositions,'' midfielder/defender Panchia said.

''A lot of the guys have played junior tournaments in Malaysia so we know how to play in the heat and we're a fit side well accustomed to the heat.''

Panchia, with over 200 international caps to his name, is filling in for striker Simon Child as skipper, Child one of a handful of players sidelined either by injury or European club commitments.

He had his captaincy debut in the 2-1 home series loss to Pakistan this month, where the big lesson for his players was achieving a consistent level of performance.

''We need to be able to adapt throughout games, but at the same time have a consistent message through that we want to be a hard-working team, we've got to compete every minute and we aware of the team we're playing, their strengths and what they're likely to do.''

First up the Black Sticks will face their former coach Colin Batch, who resigned after the Rio Olympics to take on the Australian job. Panchia, 27, is enjoying the extra responsibility of leadership, although admitting he hasn't thought too much about the role.

''My natural game is to be loud and communicate well and be organised,'' he said.

''I still want to play my natural game, make sure I do the right things off the field and lead by example.

''But it's a really good group, there's a number of guys who have been in the squad a number of years.

''With team sports nowadays you need to share that responsibility and everybody's got to take on that leadership role in some aspect.''

New Zealand's Azlan Shah Cup schedule (all matches live on Sky Sport):

Saturday: v Australia (world No 1) 10pm

Sunday: v India (6) 8pm

Tuesday: v Japan (16) 10pm

Thursday: v Malaysia (14) 12.30am

Friday: v Britain (7), 8pm

Saturday: Playoffs