The opening day of the 2019 and fourth edition of the CTM Premier Hockey League saw the defending champions the Drakensberg Dragons Roar, the Maropeng Cavemen spark, the Mapungubwe Mambas sizzle, the Madikwe Rangers hunt, and the Wineland Wings break a four-season curse. The 2019 Premier Hockey League is back and we re delighted.
There is often a sense of trepidation in the opening fixture of a tournament and many may have expected something similar in the first fixture of this year’s tournament between the Golden Gate Gladiators and the Mapungubwe Mambas. Many would have been wrong. Neville Rothman’s charges came out with fire in their bellies but had to wait until the 23rd minute before Tumi Ramphele opened the scoring. Jacque van Tonder pressured the Mambas defence, effected a turn over and crossed for Ramphele to slide in a superb finish.
Things got better for the Gladiators as on the stroke of half-time as Sam Mvimbi converted a penalty stroke for the youngsters. The Mambas, who have won their last two encounters against the Gladiators pulled one back through their own stroke by Greg Last setting up a tense finish. They pulled level on the whistle of the third chukka when Luthando Jonas turned home a goal bound effort by Owen Mvimbi. Although the Mambas tested Taine Bird in goals for the Gladiators regularly, they could not break through and the opening game would be decided by a shootout.
Luthando Jonas, Mustahpa Cassiem and Ross Goncalves all finished for the Mambas as they claimed the opening victory of the 2019 tournament.
The women’s tournament started with a tighter affair as 2017 winners the Orange River Rafters took on the Wineland Wings. The two teams had met three times previously and in all three encounters both teams got on the scoresheet. They would continue that tradition, but to the delight of Ryan Pillay and the Wineland Wings another tradition would disappear!
The Wings were looking fantastic creating a host of opportunities with Jade Mayne central to everything right that the Wings were doing. Jessica Lardant was also a prominent figure while the Orange River Rafters were looking to soak up pressure and launch counters through retired former national skipper Sulette Damons. Stephanie Botha opened the scoring with a fine tomahawk strike for the Wings before Damons showed a moment of quick thinking to fire home the equaliser. The result meant we had our second shootout of the day, something the Wineland Wings would not have wanted. In the three previous season they had competed in nine shootouts winning zero.
It looked like that may continue after early shootout goals for Ongi Mali and Donna Small, but the wings surged back with Robyn Johnson, Tarryn Glasby and Cailynn den Bakker. Stephanie Botha then came forth and confirmed the victory with a coolness that would make Chuck Norris proud and to end the longest streak in Premier Hockey League history.
The Maropeng Cavemen and Garden Route Gazelles played off for the fifth time with the three previous encounters ending in draws. The game came to life in the third quarter after a dour first half. Cameron Mackay showed his poacher like ability in the 34th minute to net his sixth career PHL goal. The Cavemen were then pegged back by nationally capped Dan Sibbald who turned home after great work from the wing. Parity had barely been restored when Spencer Botes fired home a bullet finish to regain the lead for Cavemen who hung on to remain unbeaten in normal time against the Gazelles over four seasons.
The young Cavemen will be chuffed with that opening day victory and impressed with the performance of Duncan Fischer in for Rassie Pieterse, while Mark Chong was superb for the two-time winners.
The women’s final game of the day was a repeat of the 2019 and 2017 finals with Madikwe Rangers and Blyde River Bunters locking horns. The score has ended 1-0 to the Bunters in the three most recent meetings between the two teams, with the Bunters holding a 4-1-0 Head-to-Head advantage ahead of the game.
With the game being limited to many half-chances throughout it felt like another game where the odd goal would decide it. And that’s exactly what happened. With three minutes remaining the Rangers won the penalty corner and Antoinette Louw fired a drag flick past Phumelela Mbande with a venom that gave Pietie Coetzee flashbacks. Sandile Bosman, making his debut as a coach, was delighted with the victory as the team held on for the points.
The final match of the day was a repeat of the 2018 final with the Drakensberg Dragons taking on the Addo Elephants, two-time silver medallists. The Dragons were looking to make a statement to join the Cavemen as teams to defend the trophy and they did just that with a goal in each quarter on their way to a bonus point win.
They opened the scoring when man of the match Richard Pautz finished from some good work from Bili Ntuli. The goal by Pautz moved him into a tie for second in the all-time Premier Hockey League goal scorers alongside Julian Hykes and Ricky West. He then moved into second outright alone when he brilliantly deflected from a Jethro Eustice penalty corner to make it 2-0. Pierre Botma made it three after a brilliant feint one way and squaring the ball by Amkelwa Letuka. Botma fired in his second on the night a few minutes into the fourth quarter at a time when three players were off the field with yellow cards.
Cheslyn Gie’s Elephants managed to pull a goal back through sheer will and strength from Sinoxolo Mbekeni. Unfortunately, it was only a consolation goal and its back to the drawing board for the Addo Elephants.
CTM Premier Hockey League – 18 July Results
(M) – Golden Gate Gladiators (1) 2-2* (3) Mapungubwe Mambas
(W) – Orange River Rafters (3) 1-1* (4) Wineland Wings
(M) – Maropeng Cavemen 2-1 Garden Route Gazelles
(W) – Blyde River Bunters 0-1 Madikwe Rangers
(M) – Addo Elephants 1-4 Drakensberg Dragons
CTM Premier Hockey League – 19 July Fixtures
08:00 – (W) – Namaqualand Daisies vs. St. Lucia Lakers
10:00 – (M) – Golden Gate Gladiators vs. Addo Elephants
12:00 – (W) – Orange River Rafters vs. Madikwe Rangers
14:00 – (M) – Maropeng Cavemen vs. Mapungubwe Mambas
16:00 – (W) – Blyde River Bunters vs. Wineland Wings