Picture : Sean Burke / PHL . Julian Hykes celebrates the game winning goal for the Addo Elephants

The Addo Elephants struck a devastating blow as Julian Hykes netted a late winner for the 2016 Runners-up, the Orange River Rafters came from behind to win their opener and the Mambas gave coach Lungile Tsolekile the perfect start as the 2018 CTM Premier Hockey League got underway at Randburg Astro today.

The first goal of the 2018 CTM Premier Hockey League was struck within 90 seconds of the tournament getting underway. Luthando Jonas found himself in some space and finished like a seasoned striker. Things got even better for the Mambas, being coached by Tsolekile for the first time, when Michael Baiden made it 2-0. In the second half there was signs of a fight back for the Golden Gate Gladiators as they pulled a goal back through the impressive Michael Forrest. But the Mambas, who finished third in 2017, made sure of the victory when Jonty Robinson, a man with more than 100 caps for South Africa, settled the result for the Mambas.

The 2017 champions, the Orange River Rafters, got the Women’s competition underway as taking on the Wineland Wings. Both sides were missing some players currently on duty with the South African Indoor side in Zimbabwe. That didn’t stop the Wings though and Tarryn Glasby, fresh from duty at the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup, fired home in the opening minute. Almost systematically though the defending champions started fighting back and with the last play of the opening quarter Nicole Walraven, another World Cup member, equalised with a deft deflection at the penalty corner.

The second quarter ended in almost the same way when entering the final minute of the quarter and the half Chane Hartel scooped a loose ball into the D past Charlize Swanepoel in the Wings goal to give Shaun Hulley’s Rafters a half time lead. The Rafters turned up the tempo and scored again through Zeena Martin and four minutes later scored again through Chane Hartel. The fourth was reviewed however and chalked off for a foot in the build-up. The Wings fought back and Tarryn Glasby pulled one back to set up a grand stand finish but unfortunately for the Wings they could not find the goal to level giving the defending champions a good opening day win.

The Addo Elephants followed the example set by the opening two games by scoring early in the first quarter through Olympian Julian Hykes and quickly doubled through a fantastic tomahawk finish by Andrew Manson. The 2017 runners-up the Drakensberg Dragons started the uphill climb and would have felt a glimmer of hope when Francois Pretorius got one back for them. That hope grew when Richard Pautz scored a fantastic diving deflection to level. The Dragons had an incredible 54 circle entries over 20 from the Elephants but somehow with the game heading to a shootout, superb work by Andrew Manson set up Julian Hykes who finished to send the Elephants into delirium.

The crowd at Randburg were eagerly awaiting the appearance of the Blyde River Bunters captain Phumelela Mbande after her heroics against Argentina at the World Cup and they were not disappointed as she showed signs of the same form in denying the Madikwe Rangers any goals in superb victory for Marcelle Keet’s Bunters. It was a victory borne out of great rearguard defence but with a great opportunistic goal taken by Mmamoagi Kungoane, her second career PHL goal, after a ball through by Jessica de Bruyn-Smith was parried away by Mmatshepo Modipane.

The final game of day one had a bit of a slumbering first quarter but came to life sensationally in the second quarter when the Garden Route Gazelles took the lead through Tyson Dlungwana. The defending champions were then further stunned as they fell 2-0 down through a Reece Arendse goal. The Cavemen have not lost a game in open play since PHL 2016’s group stages and they showed their class as they fought back. They pulled one goal back sensationally through a Cameron Mackay deflection in the 30th minute before former South Africa U21 International Kyle Lion-Cachet levelled from a Penalty corner in the 49th minute.

The most exciting period of the day was still to come though as Lion-Cachet gave the double champions the lead for the first time in the 58th minute giving Siya Nolutshungu no chance from a penalty stroke. If the Cavemen thought they could celebrate their victory they would be mistaken as the Gazelles, under the leadership of the impressive Ashlin Freddy, fought back again and found the game-tying goal from Luke Schooling after a great piece of play from Dlungwana. As is in the CTM PHL rules, every game must have a result and it was down to a shootout to decide the winner.

In the shootout Estiaan Kriek, only playing for the Cavemen due to Rassie Pieterse’s unavailability, saved two ultimately being enough to see Mark Sanders team home with the 3 points. Of course, the nature of the CTM PHL is such that tonight the teams will go home, analyse video and prepare themselves for another day of action packed hockey tomorrow. What a start to the 2018 CTM PHL.

CTM PHL Weekend 1

Saturday 11 August
08:00 – Men – Old Mutual iWyze Golden Gate Gladiators 1-3 Elf Laminates Mapungubwe Mambas
10:00 – Women – Ceramic Industries Wineland Wings 2-3 Italtile Orange River Rafters
12:00 – Men – Kilamanjaro Addo Elephants 3-2 Pro Grip Drakensberg Dragons
14:00 – Women – Tivoli Taps Blyde River Bunters 1-0 Top T Madikwe Rangers
16:00 – Men – Origins Maropeng Cavemen (4) *3-3 (3) Garden Route Gazelles

Sunday 12 August
08:00 – Women – Private Property St. Lucia Lakers vs. Old Mutual iWyze Namaqualand Daisies
10:00 – Men – Old Mutual iWyze Golden Gate Gladiators vs. Kilamanjaro Addo Elephants
12:00 – Women – Top T Madikwe Rangers vs. Italtile Orange River Rafters
14:00 – Men – Elf Laminates Mapungubwe Mambas vs. Origins Maropeng Cavemen
16:00 – Women – Tivoli Taps Blyde River Bunters vs. Ceramic Industries Wineland Wings