(Photo: (c) Koen Suyk )

If South Africa captain Marsha Cox needed any motivation to play her heart out every time she dons the green and gold of South Africa, she needs look no further than her own family. Marsha's mother, Marian Marescia, has been described as "the best player not to have played for South Africa", her international career curtailed by the apartheid regime that operated in South Africa at the time. Nonetheless, the young Marsha spent much of her childhood on hockey fields across the country and from an early age she felt she was destined to play for her country.

That Marsha has now played 335 matches for the Investec South Africa women’s hockey team is testimony to the deep passion Marsha has both for the game and for her country. "I basically grew up on a hockey field and my mother instilled a great love of the game in me. She is still my role model, along with former South African player Gillian Montague, another great of the South African game whose career was blighted by apartheid."

The 31-year-old made her debut for South Africa in 2001 at the age of 18. Since then she has played in three Olympic Games and this will be her fourth World Cup. Speaking about her long career, Marsha says: "After 13 years of playing hockey I am still as excited as the first time I ran out on to the field. Every match is a new experience for me and I am still in love with the game. It is really special to be part of this team.”

The Johannesburg-born skipper played for her school’s team, Northlands Girls High in Durban North, before going on to provincial and national team level. She has twice been voted onto the FIH All Stars team and at this World Cup she has been a pivotal player in South Africa's impressive performances. Although the team lost to reigning world champions Argentina and fourth-ranked Germany, the South Africa team drew widespread praise for their attacking style of play. The 4-1 victory they enjoyed over third-ranked England was the icing on the cake. South Africa came into the tournament as the 12th-ranked team, and the chances are they will finish higher than that ranking.

So what does the future hold for Marsha. In 2013 she married Dutch coach Alexander Cox, and now lives and plays hockey in the Netherlands. But, she has no plans to stop playing international hockey. For the talented midfielder, who also has a degree in marketing, her love for the game will fuel many more years of service to South Africa.

“I still love the game and will continue to do so for a long time to come. Hopefully I will be able to play a lot more in the coming years and create many more memories. The day I stop loving the game will be the day I consider retiring and I do not see that happening any time soon,” she said. "When I started playing I never dreamt of making 300 caps or even being captain,” she said. “I just knew that I wanted to play for South Africa.”

South Africa women currently sit fifth in the pool with matches against the high flying USA and mid-table China to come. The win over England has boosted the team's confidence and Cox and her colleagues are daring to dream of more points in this World Cup edition. "Our target at this World Cup is to finish higher than our ranking," said Cox's other long-serving colleague Pietie Coetzee. "We have been given the opportunity through our new sponsor to play more internationals in preparation, so we should start seeing result."