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Photo - Marcel Sigg / Run Ride Dive
Image -  Marcel Sigg / Run Ride Dive

Mark Hopkins has been named as the head coach of the South African Men’s Hockey for the period up to and including the 2018 FIH Hockey World Cup in India. The new coach succeeds Fabian Gregory, who stepped down after the FIH World League Semi-Finals in South Africa, and interim head coach Sheldon Rostron who completed the unheralded double gold at the African Hockey Cup of Nations.

“The process to select the next national coach was a robust process that has identified the best candidate for the job,” shared David Viney head of the High Performance at SA Hockey, “we are confident that Mark has the right approach that will take the programme in the right direction and we look forward to seeing the progress under his guidance”

Born and educated in Solihull, England, Mark played schools hockey for his county, Warwickshire and then The Midlands. He first came to South Africa in 1997 and settled in Cape Town coaching at SACS and playing for the Constantia club, before returning to England in 1999. For the next six years, he coached at the University of Wales in Cardiff and also became involved with Welsh hockey coaching right through from under 16 to senior level with both the men and ladies teams.

He answered the call from the Bloemendaal club in Holland in 2007. This club is among the biggest club sides anywhere in the world, and he was Youth Director as well as the being involved in the coaching setup. In 2010 he turned to the world of business and went to Vietnam to join a World Talent Group before coming to Johannesburg last year. In 2009 Mark married a Durban lady, Lindsay, so that was an easy decision to want to return as Lindsay had been out of South Africa for some 13 years

Hopkins then started lighting up his name on the South African Hockey radar when he took up the mantle of Southern Gauteng men collecting a silver and a gold medal in 2015 and 2016 IPT’s respectively. He also featured as a coach of the Garden Route Gazelles at the Premier Hockey League and led Riverside Hockey Club to the 2017 Riverside Elite Club Challenge title.

When not involved in hockey, Hopkins spends as much time as possible with his 8-year-old son, the youngest ever finisher of the Midmar Mile. He also loves spending time in the bush and hiking.

“I am honoured to be given the opportunity to take on the role of national head coach and I look forward to working with an outstandingly talented group of players. I believe in creating the right environment for the players to be as successful as they can be,” Hopkins shared “I am excited by the young talent we have in our system. I truly believe the hockey community in South Africa can be immensely proud that we have a pool with this level of talent in.”

Hopkins first assignment will be the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April, while an eye will be firmly on the FIH Hockey World Cup later in the year as major ranking points will be up for grabs. Hopkins will be keen to get South Africa back up the rankings table.

Tim Drummond, the captain of the South African Hockey Men, shared his thoughts:

“The announcement of the new coach Mark Hopkins is very exciting for this talented squad of players. We have a hugely important year with the World Cup at the end of November. The Commonwealth Games in April will be an excellent opportunity for some members of the South African Men’s squad to experience a multi-sport event and prepare for the World Cup in India.

Mark will bring some fresh ideas and a positive mentality to all things on and off the pitch, which I know the players will enjoy having worked with him before. He is driven and ambitious and I know he will get the best out of each member in the greater squad.

The squad is gaining great momentum after winning Africa Cup last October and this appointment will definitely motivate the squad to strive to not only be better players but more importantly, role models for the young players in South Africa.”

South African Hockey looks forward to Mark taking charge and wish him all the best for the year ahead.