IPOH: Malaysia’s K. Dharmaraj is not the only coach facing his first assignment at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh. South Africa’s Fabian Gregory is also making his debut.
Gregory, who had been the women’s national assistant coach for the last 10 years, replaced Charlie Pereira as the head coach last month.
The 40-year-old Gregory, whose contract extends until the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, said that he is still getting to know the players.
“The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, which begins tomorrow (today), will be my first assignment.
“I have not set any specific target for the tournament but we are in the process of building a strong team for the World Cup in The Hague, Holland, in May,” said Gregory.
South Africa qualified for the World Cup by emerging champions in the African Cup of Nations tournament in Kenya last November.
Gregory said they are in Ipoh with a fairly seasoned team. Only Brandon Panther, Dylan Swanepoel, Robin Jones and Ignatius Malgraff have fewer than 10 international caps to their credit.
They will be led by seasoned campaigner and skipper Wade Paton, who is also the penalty corner specialist.
South Africa will open their campaign against Malaysia today at 8pm.
Gregory said that they hope to get off to a good start against the hosts although the weather in Ipoh is hot and humid.
“We are happy to play our first match against Malaysia at night as the conditions are much cooler,” said Gregory.
The last time the two countries met was at the World League semi-finals in Johor Baru last September, where Malaysia won 6-4.
South Africa last featured in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2005, when it was a seven-nation meet. They finished last then.
Last month, South Africa played five Test matches against Argentina, losing four and drawing one.