The University of Waikato Men's Four Nations Hockey tournament started off with a bang last night as the Vantage Black Sticks took on Olympic silver medallists Belgium at Blake Park after the showdown between India and Japan.
The Vantage Black Sticks Men secured a thrilling 5-4 victory over Belgium in their opening match at the University of Waikato Four Nations on January 17.
It was the first appearance by the Vantage Black Sticks men's team at Mount Maunganui since the series against Malaysia in March 2016.
Speaking to the Bay of Plenty Times ahead of the match, Belgium attacker Sebastien Dockier said the tournament was an opportunity to try out different strategies ahead of the Men's Hockey World Cup in India in November and December.
"We will be working on different tactics and testing things out. We can also test some players out in different positions too," Dockier said.
The 28-year-old said the Belgium team, nicknamed the Red Lions, were looking forward to taking on India after losing to the side in December last year.
But the ultimate final for Dockier would be New Zealand vs Belgium.
"There are players like Hugo Inglis, who we know really well, and he will be scoring a lot of goals for New Zealand, so they will be tough to beat."
It was Dockier's first visit to New Zealand and he said the team had been enjoying spending time in Tauranga's CBD and Mount Maunganui.
"It's really nice to be by the coast, It's -2C back in Belgium so I think it's great weather for us to train in and it's not too hot either," Dockier said.
Ahead of the match against Belgium, Black Sticks men's midfielder Aidan Sarikaya said the tournament was a great way to kick off the year.
He said the Red Lions were going to be tough competitors throughout the tournament as the side has "a lot of experienced players," but the Kiwis had an edge playing to a home crowd.
"It's so good playing at home and having the support," Sarikaya said.
Tauranga Hockey Association general manager Clinton Butler said there was a lot of excitement ahead of the tournament.
"We've had all of the teams training down here at various times and it's been great to meet all of the players."
He said Tauranga had a "passionate hockey community" which was proud to host international players.
"This is a great opportunity for us to host plenty of top-level players so there has been a lot of excitement and a lot of anticipation," Butler said.
DAY ONE RESULTS - BLAKE PARK, TAURANGA
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS: 5 (Jared Panchia 2, Marcus Child, Stephen Jenness, Nic Woods)
BELGIUM: 4 (Loick Luypaert 2, Amaury Kesuters, Thomas Briels)
INDIA: 6 (Vivek Prasad 2, Dilpreet Singh 2, Rupinder Singh, Harmanpreet Singh)
Halftime: India 3-0
2018 Men's Four Nations — Match Schedule
Blake Park, Mount Maunganui
5.45pm-India vs Belgium, 7.30pm-Vantage Black Sticks vs Japan
12.15pm-Vantage Black Sticks vs India, 2pm-Belgium vs Japan
12pm-Bronze medal match, 2pm-Gold medal match