Veteran SA hockey player Rassie Pieterse retires after ’lekker’ few days at Olympics
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“The last few days have been really lekker.”
That’s how South Africa’s veteran hockey goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse signed off his international career on Friday night in Tokyo.
Pieterse will go back to his day job as Managing Director of TK Sports because “we're the only team at the Olympics who are still amateurs” with a host of fond memories gained over the past 14 years of representing the national team.
But none have been more enjoyable than the past fortnight here in Japan spent with a group of "wild dogs" that have “left it all out there” in their maiden Olympic experience.
“I’ve been playing for South Africa for quite a long time. But for the first time I really do feel like there is something special here. It’s actually sad to leave the team. The Olympics has not just been a great experience but there are lot of things that happen behind the scenes with this team.
BREAKING: Rassie Pieterse, one of the stars of the South Africa Men's Hockey team, has announced on SuperSport's daily #Tokyo2020 show that he is retiring from the sport 🇿![CDATA]>🇦![CDATA]>🏑 pic.twitter.com/DUsT54JmZm— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) July 30, 2021
“It was just so special. We have had quite a few hurdles to go through to get to the Olympics. So getting here and then actually competing, and seeing the boys just leaving everything out there … I think it’s a proud moment.
“But I’m 37 now and I think it’s time that I spend time with my two little girls. I actually called it a while ago. It should have been last year but obviously Covid moved the Olympics out to this year. It’s been great ride. I’ve had an enjoyable career.”
Pieterse, the last remaining member of the SA team that competed at the 2012 London Olympics, showed no signs over the past five matches that his cat-like powers were on the wane.
Today I hung up my boots. I’m retiring from international hockey with a happy heart— Rassie Pieterse OLY (@Rassie_Pieterse) July 31, 2021
I can’t thank everyone enough. So many people have played a massive part in my career
I ❤️my country and this team so much.
Thanks for all the great memories.I have had the time of my life pic.twitter.com/L1NRCa6yn1
In fact, his reflexes were as sharp as ever, with a certain stick save in the tournament opener against Great Britain being particularly special.
But ironically for someone whose job was to stop the opposition from scoring goals for the past 167 matches, Pieterse is more excited about his own team’s dynamic frontline that is led by the Cassiem brothers (Dayaan and Mustaphaa), Nqobile Ntuli, Tevin Kok and Samkelo Mvimbi.
“This is a special group of guys. You just have to look at out strikers, the wild dogs upfront. They are scoring some unbelievable goals and world hockey has taken notice of what this team is capable of. It’s just exciting to see where we can go,” Pieterse told SuperSport.
“We came into the Olympics ranked No 14 in the world and now we looking at a top 10 ranking. We came here as the underdogs, but most importantly we showed that we can score goals and we can compete. We beat Germany and we drew against a very good Canadian side and I am sure the rest of the world has seen how exciting this team is by the types of goals that we scored."
South Africa’s next major hockey assignment on the international calendar is the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in less than 12 months time.
Pieterse believes that this current crop of players could deliver something really special in England’s midlands.
“I’ve said it so many times that South African hockey is a sleeping giant. If we get a few things right we can really bring the medals home,” he said.
“I definitely feel that you are going to see something from this team. Next year is the Commonwealth Games and hopefully the boys can podium. There is a definitely a chance for the boys to medal.”