It is globe-trotting time for a number of the women's teams who will be competing at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup in June.
In San Diego, California, teams from Great Britain, New Zealand and the USA are playing a series of matches at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego, while in Cape Town, South Africa has just finished a series of matches against Australia, the Netherlands and Belgium and the players will shortly embark on the next step in their World Cup preparation.
While all the national coaches will see these matches as a chance to try new systems and observe new players in action, there is still a fiercely competitive element to the games, with individual players wanting to stake claims for places and for the whole team's pride and confidence that comes from a win over close rivals.
With a squad of 32 players in San Diego, head coach of Great Britain, Jason Lee is working the rotation system carefully. He says: "Of the five matches we have played so far, most have played three out of five, giving opportunity and experience to the entire squad."
Lee's counterpart, the USA coach Craig Parnham said, after his team drew 2-2 with GB: "It is important for us to continue to grow as a team. The new players are progressing nicely."
A robust approach is being taken by coach of the Black Sticks, Mark Hager, who is pushing his team hard to monitor how well they cope with stress. Having told the team that they need to "toughen up" after losing to the USA, he is putting the team through its paces. Anita Punt, one of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side said: "We're doing extra running and gym sessions so we don't have a lot of rest. But that's what we've come away to do, to make us feel uncomfortable and know how to push through pain barriers."
And New Zealand's tough preparations will continue once they leave the USA; they then host China in a two-match test series against the world number seven team.
Having faced three challenging series against Australia, the Netherlands and Belgium, the South African coach Giles Bonnet is resting some of his more experienced players for the current test matches against Scotland. Following that five-match test series, the South African squad will fly to Argentina to pit their wits against the team currently ranked number two.
While all the coaches involved in these test fixtures stress that these are opportunities to build the team and learn about players' strengths and weaknesses, the close scores and entertaining games are a good indicator of the level of competitiveness spectators can expect in The Netherlands in June.
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