South African hockey captain Marsha Marescia believes that business involvement in the sport will help bridge the gap between the national team and top international sides.
Marescia said this in response to supermarket chain Spar's R5 million sponsorship renewal for the team on Monday. Spar have been sponsoring women's hockey since 1995, and the latest contract runs until the end of 2009.
The team took part in an international tournament, taking on world champions the Netherlands, Olympic champions Germany, as well as England, Ireland and Canada in Stellenbosch earlier this month, and gained exposure against some of the best teams in the world.
"The more international hockey we play, the more we will learn because we have a young team. But we have lost stars such as Pietie Coetzee, Lindsey Carlisle and Kerry Bee, who have retired, and we need to start building towards the Olympic Games in Beijing next year," Marescia said.
The sponsorship will go towards the running of the national team, the yearly inter-provincial tournament billed for August and the South African Hockey Association awards ceremony, also taking place towards the end of the year.