‘Beating Australia, NZ real challenge in Hawke’s Bay Cup’

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New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) Indian women hockey senior striker Poonam Rani on Friday said hosts New Zealand and their neighbours Australia will pose tough challenges in the Hawke’s Bay Cup to be held from April 11 to 19.

After a successful campaign in the Hero Hockey World League (HWL) Round 2 here, Poonam said she and her fellow forwards Vandana Katariya and Rani Rampal are working on new strategies to counter teams like Australia and New Zealand who employ a physical game.

“Playing against the top teams, especially Australia and host team New Zealand will be a real challenge for us,” Poonam said in a release.

“They have a very strong defence chain and they tackle the strikers by attacking back and which thwarts the efforts to break the shackle and penetrate the D.”

The tournament will witness India, Argentina, Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and New Zealand fighting it out for the title.

Poonam, who has more than 100 caps, said they are working on improving their running speed that will help them break the defence structure.

“Speed will be important if we have to break their defence chain and create scoring opportunities,” she said.

“We are working on these aspects and improving our physical fitness as we have to be energetic till the final whistle.

“Beating the Tasmanian neighbours will be the real and biggest challenge for us.”

The ongoing preparatory camp here for the Indian team under the guidance of high performance director Roelant Oltmans commenced on March 22 and will conclude on April 7.

The team is also preparing for the all important Hockey World League (HWL) Semi-Final in Belgium. If India finish among the top three in Belgium, they will qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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