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Photos by Marcel Sigg

“Never underestimate the underdog” were the first words out of coach Shaun Hulley’s mouth as he left the field after his side’s stunning 2-1 upset victory over the 2016 women’s runners-up at the Premier Hockey League in Johannesburg on Saturday.

 

Having lost both their matches last weekend, the Orange River Rafters went into their game against the TopT Madikwe Rangers knowing they had to pull off a win to keep any semifinal hopes alive.

This knowledge, together with a good bit of inspiration from being tagged as the tournament underdogs, proved to be just what was needed to claim a 2-1 win.

 

Two goals from captain Sulette Damons were what did it for the Rafters. They took the lead in the third minute and extended that to 2-0, 20 minutes later. But the Rangers came back at them just a matter of seconds later when Sylvia van Jaarsveldt scored from a penalty corner. The Rafters then had to endure a period of sustained pressure but held on for the win.

 

In what seems to be true Rafters style, Damons was unwilling to take any of the credit for her brace. “It was a great build-up, really a team effort. I was just lucky enough to get in front and get the touches. So I don’t take the credit – they were definitely team goals,” she said afterwards.

“We are very chuffed. We knew it was a very important game and we needed to win it to get a lifeline in this tournament and we did it.

 

“The other team most probably thought they’ve got nothing to fear and were humbled. We knew we had nothing to lose, just enjoyed it and gave it our all. Every single one of the team did their part and that led to the victory,” added the captain.

 

Her coach echoed those sentiments. “It was a team effort and a better understanding of what we needed to do in that last bit. The press was better, closing the different zones was better, which is something that we lacked last weekend,” said Hulley.

 

“Being the underdog has given us a bit more freedom as well. I think playing against some of the teams we’re playing – it just shows you, no matter how many good players you have on your team, if you don’t play as a team, then you’re probably going to be found wanting.”

 

Meanwhile, despite having to overcome a “sleepy brain” for an early morning match, Private Property St Lucia Lakers captain Shelley Jones managed to lead her side to a 3-1 victory over the iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies, which included a brace from Kelly Reed.

 

 

“Definitely the Daisies put us under a lot of pressure and at one stage had six penalty corners in a row so we’re thrilled with our PC defence to keep that all out and very proud of the girls for putting in those last two goals at the end. We just persisted with what we were doing and finally we knew those goals would come,” said Jones.

 

“I think it was still very scrappy at times. I’d like to think that’s what an 8am game does – still a few sleepy brains – well, that’s my excuse anyway – but I think with each game we know each other a little better and hopefully are honing in on those connection and passes we need to make. I think we can look forward to a better performance next week,” she added.

 

In the men’s tournament, coach Krinesan Moodley said he believes to win the Premier Hockey League you have to concede as few goals as possible. So a stat sheet that shows 9 for and 1 against after two games, is something that has the coach of the Mapungubwe Mambas smiling broadly.

His side beat the Garden Route Gazelles 3-0 to put them in an excellent position heading into Sunday’s showdown with the 2016 runners-up, the Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants.

 

“It’s more about how few goals you concede rather than how many goals you score. It’s obviously a balance. Scoring goals is great for the team, winning games. But conceding one goal in two games at this level, playing against some quality strikers is important for us,” said Moodley.

 

The Addo Elephants celebrated their first win of the tournament with a 4-2 victory over the iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators. They went 4-0 up before the under-21 side pulled two back with penalty corner goals. And in the final women’s match of the day, the defending champions, the Tivoli Blyde River Bunters kept up their unbeaten run by defeating the Wineland Wings 3-1.

 

PHL action continues at the Randburg Astro on Sunday, with all matches being broadcast on SuperSport.

 

Results

2 December 2017:

Private Property St Lucia Lakers 3-1 iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies

Mapungubwe Mambas 3-0 Garden Route Gazelles

Orange River Rafters 2-1 TopT Madikwe Rangers

Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants 4-2 iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators

Tivoli Blyde River Bunters 3-1 Wineland Wings

 

 

 

Fixtures

3 December 2017:

 

8am: Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants v Mapungubwe Mambas

10am: iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies v Wineland Wings

12pm: Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen v ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons

2pm: TopT Madikwe Rangers v Tivoli Blyde River Bunters

4pm: iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators v Garden Route Gazelles

Photo by Marcel Sigg 

The first weekend of the Premier Hockey League didn’t quite go according to plan for Cheslyn Gie, but the Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants coach is confident things will get back on track in the next round of matches this coming Saturday.

 

Last year’s finalists went down 4-0 in their opening match against the Pro-Grip Drakensberg Dragons. Then, in a repeat of the 2016 final, they just fell short against the defending champions – the Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen – losing 3-2 on Sunday.

 

To add to Gie’s worries, star SA national player Jonty Robinson injured his ankle in Sunday’s game and is in a race against time to be fit again for this weekend.

 

“We always expected it to be a tough start as we received two new marquee players in critical positions for the team. It took the players a game to get used to each other and we definitely started to gel and play better as a team by the second match,” explained the coach.

 

“I believe if we continue to improve we will be a threat for any team in the coming weekends.

 

“We were able to learn from our mistakes and the improvement showed in our second match against the Cavemen. The team’s fighting spirit is still as strong as in 2016 and this bodes well for the coming weekends.”

 

Asked what the Elephants will need to improve on before they tackle the second weekend of PHL matches, Gie reckoned: “We will have to improve our penalty corner defence, ensure we make more connections on attack and convert the opportunities we created. We missed two tap-ins against the Cavemen while we were leading 2-1. Scoring those opportunities would have eased the pressure and tension.”

 

The team’s first clash of the coming weekend will be against the SA under-21 side, playing as the iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators.

 

“We had a great result against them in 2016 although the Gladiators have seen many changes to their team, so we are confident we can get a positive result against them. We are however aware that they have the potential to spring a few surprises as they pushed the Dragons all the way to a shoot-out on Sunday,” said Gie, whose team’s next challenge after the Gladiators will be against the Mapungubwe Mambas on Sunday.

 

“The Mambas have a very balanced team and from their performance the past weekend they have a lot of fire-power up front and we will have to do well to counter this.”

 

As for whether Robinson is likely to be part of the Elephants’ line-up at the Randburg Astro this weekend, the coach explained: “His injury seems very bad and we definitely missed him on the park in the fourth quarter. He will be seeing a radiologist to have a look at the injured ankle.

 

“I am still awaiting the results. Jonty is however very positive that he will be fit enough to play this coming weekend.

 

“If he can’t, his wealth of experience and calmness under pressure would be a huge loss for the team. However we managed well with him off the park when injured and I expect the players to step up if we should lose him due to injury.”

 

The second round of PHL action gets under way on Saturday morning at 8am. After the opening round, last year’s bottom team, the Drakensberg Dragons, are top of the men’s log with the Mapungubwe Mambas second, having played one game less.

 

Defending champions, the Blyde River Bunters, are top of the women’s log after two wins from their two matches. The Under-21 Namaqualand Daisies are second and while last year’s runners up, the Madikwe Rangers, are currently fourth, they have played one game less.

Several things struck me when John Wright announced his retirement as an international hockey umpire a few months back.

The announcement signalled the retirement of one of the finest hockey umpires of all time – certainly the best male hockey umpire South Africa has produced and, in fact the most celebrated umpire or referee in any sport in South Africa.

There is no South African official and few international ones who have umpired 3 World Cup finals (the last 3), 2 Olympic Finals (Athens and Rio), whilst also umpiring in 3 other Olympic Games.  He also umpired numerous finals in Continental Championships in Europe, Oceania, Asia and Pan America, as well as Champions Trophy finals – a staggering career achievement and a CV beyond compare.

But it is more than that because other than the final in Rio (which I watched on TV) I was present for all the major finals he umpired.  You have to be in the stadium to really absorb the reality of it.

The tension and pressure on an umpire in the red-hot cauldron of a final with a packed stadium and worldwide audience of millions is unbelievable.  One mistake can change the direction of the game, the fate of the Gold Medal, the ultimate prize for any hockey player or athlete.

The umpires are subjected to verbal abuse from the spectators, the players and the coaches including on-going “sledging” or verbal barbs.  I have witnessed one of the world’s top hockey coaches running down the side-line verbally abusing John.

This against the back drop of the fact that hockey is one of the fastest ball games in the world with high levels of player congestion at times.  A deflection, a subtle stick tap, or any other infringement can happen so fast, and an umpire focussing on the ball is also expected to pick up things happening off the ball!

Yet the calmness and quiet authority exhibited by John in the “heat of battle” was remarkable especially with the stakes so high.  He managed this with dignity and aplomb.

After crucial games and handshakes all round, most players and coaches would acknowledge the excellent job he had done in that “cauldron”.

A further hallmark of a great hockey umpire is the ability to work together with his fellow umpire on field and this teamwork is vital to ensure the best possible handling of the game.  John was always able to ensure that he worked superbly well with his co-umpires.

South Africa’s great women’s umpire Marelize de Klerk conducted herself similarly and with great distinction also umpiring numerous gold medal matches.

I am sure John and Marelize fed off each other’s success and helped pave the way for many other South African umpires to follow suit eg Gary Simmonds, Deon Nel and now Michelle Joubert, with John’s brother Peter also emerging as a top umpire.

The mentoring role they played and involvement in South African hockey’s umpire development is notable.

I remember asking John after the World Cup final in The Hague if he had enjoyed the experience.  He told me the tension and fear of making a crucial error was so big that it is difficult to enjoy these occasions in the fullest sense but the sense of satisfaction of a job well done is the dominant feeling.  The enjoyment probably seeps in when one knows that you have done a job par excellence.

John Wright, I pay tribute to you for an unparalleled career in hockey umpiring – all done as a volunteer with no remuneration – which makes the achievement even more remarkable given the preparation and training required.

You can rightly feel tremendously proud and you have been a role model for young umpires at home and abroad, as well as South African and World Hockey.

 

 

Photo by Marcel Sigg 

 

Today a year ago, Ricky West was getting married to the love of his life. This year he was slotting in a pair of goals to lead his Maropeng Cavemen side to a 3-2 victory over the Addo Elephants on the second day of the Premier Hockey League in Johannesburg.

 

And his wife, Coral, can expect an even bigger anniversary present after the defender was handed the man of the match cheque after the game for his efforts.

 

“It’s a special day – it’s our one-year wedding anniversary today so gifts all round – a bit of money, two goals and a win so a very lekker day. I already got her something nice this morning but now she knows I’ve got a bit more budget,” joked West.

 

It was a match that was a repeat of last year’s final, and it certainly lived up to expectations. The defending champion Cavemen had to come from behind twice in the match to claim the win. And having had yesterday’s rain-ruined match against the Garden Route Gazelles reduced to a shootout which they lost, this was an important win.

 

“Going down quite early in the first chukka put us on the back foot. Last year we had to fight to come back in a lot of games so I think a lot of that is still coming through,” explained West, who scored both his goals from penalty corners. Lungani Gabela was the other scorer for the Cavemen. “We didn’t get a run yesterday so we were a bit rusty, but we were building in every chukka which is a good sign for us.

 

“At half time the game was very much in the balance and then we came out and moved the ball a bit better. We got a bit more ball to our forwards, which was an objective for us.”

 

Cavemen coach Mark Sanders was always confident his team would pull off their all-important first win of the tournament. “It wasn’t really in doubt but we made it difficult for ourselves.

 

“The heat started creeping in for both sides. But that’s the final from last year so a bit of a grudge match and we ground it out. After watching that video from yesterday, I don’t think they themselves played particularly well, but they turned it around quite nicely and made it an incredibly competitive battle,” he added of the Elephants’ first match in which they went down 4-0 to the Drakensburg Dragons on Saturday.

 

Meanwhile, there were some frayed nerves earlier in the day when the clash between the Madikwe Rangers and the Wineland Wings was decided with a shootout. Daniella Rhodes had scored for the Wings in the 19th minute and Lilian du Plessis levelled matters in the third quarter for the Rangers to see the teams deadlocked at 1-1 at fulltime. All drawn PHL matches automatically go to a shootout, which on this occasion was won by last year’s runners up – the Rangers.

 

“I always say every game I age about five years and this one was no different,” admitted a relieved Rangers coach Tsoanelo Pholo afterwards. “It wasn’t our best start and it doesn’t help getting a card [for captain Louise de Jager] in the first three minutes. A 10-minute yellow was always going to put us on the back foot but I think we did very well to come back in the second half.

 

“We came here for three points and we got our three points. Winning a shootout is great for team morale and it was very exciting. Winning is a habit – it doesn’t matter how it comes so we’re happy.”

 

Du Plessis, who apart from her regular-time goal also scored the Rangers’ second successful goal of the shootout, added: “There was a bit of tremoring during the shootout but I’m feeling good now after the win. The last five minutes of a game when you’re drawing are very tense because nobody wants to go to a shootout, but we’re mentally preparing ourselves for it in the last minute or two.

 

“We’re really happy. Obviously we want to set a benchmark so this first game was really important because I think we’ve done that now.”

 

The match between the Namaqualand Daisies (SA U21s) and the Orange River Rafters also looked like it was headed for a shootout after the latter clawed their way back from 3-1 down to level the scores with a minute to go in the match. But Kristen Paton slotted one in just a matter of seconds later to hand the Daisies their first win of the tournament.

 

It did take a shootout for the Drakensberg Dragons to beat the Golden Gate Gladiators though, after they finished the game on 2-2. The Dragons took the shootout 3-1 to notch up their second win.

 

There was also a second victory for the women’s defending champions, the Blyde River Bunters, who defeated the St Lucia Lakers 3-1, thanks to a brace from Thati Segaole.

 

Premier League action continues at the Randburg Astro next weekend.

 

 

 

 

RESULTS

 

Sunday, 26 November 2017

 

Top T Madikwe Rangers 1-1 (2-0 shootout) Wineland Wings

Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen 3-2 Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants

iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies 4-3 Orange River Rafters

Pro-Grip Drakensberg Dragons 2-2 (3-1 shootout) iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators

Tivoli Blyde River Bunters 3-1 Private Property St Lucia Lakers

 

A good dose of sibling rivalry was just the thing to inspire Amkelwe Letuka to his first ever goal for the Drakensberg Dragons as the Premier Hockey League kicked off in a rain-soaked Johannesburg today.

 

Playing against his twin brother, Onke, Letuka’s was the second of four goals that his side scored against last year’s runners up – the Addo Elephants.

 

It was an impressive result for the team that finished bottom of the pile last year and came via two successful penalty corners and two field goals.

 

“We were expecting a good result because this team is a really good team. But we didn’t expect 4-0,” admitted Letuka afterwards.

 

“It was pretty tough – and even tougher when you’re playing against your brother as a defender. I won the battle today so I’m pretty chuffed with that. I’m very happy – it was pretty good goal.”

 

The other goals came from Gareth Heyns, Dylan Swanepoel and Nqobile Ntuli, whose brother Sihle coaches the team. “It was a much tougher game than the result suggests. 4-0 is a very flattering result but for our first game, we’re very happy,” said the coach afterwards.

 

“We actually spoke about it yesterday. The biggest disappointment last year – if we look at all our games, we actually outplayed our opponents. The stats were in our favour but we just didn’t convert so for us to come away with four goals today is a really good start to our tournament.

 

“A big thing for us today was to not concede – that’s a very good sign for us. The Elephants team have some good players up front so it was a great defensive effort,” added Ntuli, whose side were lucky to avoid the worst of the rain that was to follow.

 

The next couple of matches were badly affected by downpours. Defending women’s champions, the Blyde River Bunters, managed to get in 30 minutes against the SA under-21 team, playing as the Namaqualand Daisies, before the pitch became too water-logged.

 

The Bunters were 1-0 up at the time, thanks to an early penalty corner goal from Elmien Marais. But that counted for nothing as the match eventually had to be decided in a shootout, starting back at 0-0. Much to the 2016 winners’ relief, they maintained the upper hand and won the shootout 2-1.

“With the weather turning as it is, being 1-0 up and it becoming more and more difficult, to have to go to a shootout was a little bit disappointing but that’s the rules,” explained Bunters coach Lindsey Wright afterwards. “And it was good experience to get the shootout under our belts and to show good character to be able to hang in there and grab the three points.”

 

Asked if she was happy with the team’s performance in the half they did manage to play, Wright said: “Not totally. The conditions were difficult to play flowing hockey. There were a couple of concepts that they did very well though.

 

“We’ve just got to do a few tweaks and I’m happy that we can do that before tomorrow’s game. So I have all the confidence in the world that they will get better as the tournament progresses,” said Wright, adding that she hoped national star player Celia Evans would have recovered from illness to rejoin the team by next weekend.

 

The men’s defending champions, the Maropeng Cavemen, were also scheduled to be in action on the opening day. But no regular play was possible due to the persistent rain and their match against the Garden Route Gazelles was also reduced to a shootout – which last year’s bronze medallists won 2-1.

 

The storm clouds cleared just enough for the last two matches of the day to be completed, albeit in unseasonably chilly conditions. The St Lucia Lakers pulled off a comfortable 4-1 victory over the Orange River Rafters. Tiffany Jones and Bianca Wood scored in the opening quarter to give the Lakers a 2-0 lead going into the first break. Lerato Mahlangu pulled one back for the Rafters in the 35th minute, and while her side thought that they had managed to draw level not long after, the goal was disallowed on referral.

 

The Lakers’ Ayanga Baleni then found the back of the net in the 59th minute for the 3-1 lead, with Pollert Mashau slotting in the last goal of the game with less than 10 seconds on the clock.

 

It was then the Mapungubwe Mambas who secured a massive victory in the final match of the day, beating the SA men’s under 21 team, the Golden Gate Gladiators, by a margin of 6-1, which included a hat-trick from Jarryd Jones.

 

Results

25 November 2017:

Pro-Grip Drakensberg Dragons 4-0 Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants

Tivoli Blyde River Bunters 2-1 (shootout) iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies

Garden Route Gazelles 2-1 (shootout) Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen

Private Property St Lucia Lakers 4-1 Orange River Rafters

Mapungubwe Mambas 6-1 iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators

 

Fixtures

Sunday, 26 Novembers 2017:

8am: Top T Madikwe Rangers v Wineland Wings

10am: Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen v Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants

12pm: iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies v Orange River Rafters

2pm: Pro-Grip Drakensberg Dragons v iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators

4pm: Private Property St Lucia Lakers v Tivoli Blyde River Bunters

Photo by: Robert Swanepoel

 

With the Premier Hockey League (PHL) now just three days away, former captain of the national men’s team, Austin Smith, is relishing the opportunity to play in the competition for the first time.

 

Smith missed out on the 2016 PHL because of club commitments in the Netherlands, but timing has worked out in his favour this time around, and he’ll take to the field with the Drakensberg Dragons team when the action gets under way at the Randburg Astro in Johannesburg this Saturday.

 

“The tournament was run during the middle of the Dutch club competition last year and that's where I'm contracted to play and coach,” explained the 32-year-old Capetonian.

 

“I'm really looking forward to playing in the PHL for the first time. I followed it from afar last year and it looked like a lot of a fun. I've been fortunate enough to play in the Hockey India League and what I really enjoyed about that tournament was playing alongside players that I'd never had the chance to do so before. The PHL will be a very similar experience, playing with South African players that I usually only play against at inter-provincial tournaments.”

 

The Dragons team, coached by Sihle Ntuli, includes other marquee players such as Gowan Jones and Jethro Eustice – who Smith has played alongside in the national team – but also many that are new to him.

 

“I have to be honest, some of the players in my team I only know by name. I think that's half the fun of the PHL, getting to know other players in South Africa and learning from one another. I haven't played in the local league in South Africa for the past 12 years since I left to play overseas so it also gives me a chance to get back in touch with a lot of old playing mates,” he explained.

 

As for what he’s expecting from the PHL, which will be played over three consecutive weekends, with the playoffs taking place on 11-12 December, Smith added: “I heard that it took a few games to get the connections just right and it takes a lot of communication to get everyone on the same page. It's logical that it takes a while but I hope with the experience that we have in our team we are able to do that quicker and more effectively than other teams.”

 

 

The Dragons finished in bottom spot at last year’s tournament, but Smith is looking for nothing less than a win in 2017.

 

“I have never started any tournament hoping for anything besides the gold medal. Nothing motivates me more than the chance to win. Having not played last year I really have no idea what the level is like or how our team will fair, but I guarantee that we will be going for the gold,” he said.

 

The Drakensberg Dragons play the opening game of the tournament – against the Addo Elephants on Saturday morning at 8am. All matches will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

 

 

The men’s defending champions may already have the edge on some of the other teams heading into the Premier Hockey League in just 10 days’ time.

 

With 13 of their players all based in Gauteng, the Maropeng Cavemen have managed to have a few training sessions together ahead of the tournament which kicks off at the Randburg Astro on November 25.

 

Confidence is high that they’ll be able to defend the title they claimed in 2016

 

“We always say we’re confident. I always go out there to win so I don’t have any other mind-set,” said coach of the side Mark Sanders. “We don’t want to be arrogant about it but we will be confident about our ability and our team’s ability. Looking at the other teams – they’ve all got better as well with their draft picks. It was a big challenge last year and this year’s going to be no different.”

 

Speaking about their pre-tournament practices, Sanders explained: “There is some method behind the way I choose players. It’s not solely based on location, but it does have some merit in it. It’s not to be frowned upon – the more we have guys training together and getting our set-pieces right and all that now, it’s only going to bode well.

 

As for the tournament itself, Sanders added: “Our principle is defend to win and when we do have an opportunity to score, we take it – and minimise the number of goals we concede. If we can tighten up our defensive structure, then we’re always going to be there and in with a shout to win.”

 

Meanwhile, for Lindsey Wright, coach of the 2016 women’s winners, the Blyde River Bunters, having the tag of defending champions going into the PHL means nothing.

 

“That was the team of 2016 so that belongs to those girls and this is a new team this year and we’ll create new goals,” she explained. “I don’t want them to even think about themselves as being defending champions. They’re merely getting an opportunity to create their own destiny and legacy.

 

“The title’s up for grabs for anybody and if the Bunters want to claim that title, they’re going to have to put their hands up with consistent performances throughout each and every game. That’s the challenge and I think that’s what’s exciting all the players. I’m looking forward to it. There’s a bunch of great coaches and I’m sure they’re all going to get the best out of their teams.”

 

Also, rather than focusing on that winner’s medal, for Wright it’s more about the process.

“For me, it’s all about the performance and not too much about the end result. Yes, I think the end result is great if you can work yourself through that process but I still think the biggest win is – have I grown as a hockey player, am I better a hockey player at the end of the tournament than when I started?”

 

Wright agreed that with six marquee players included in each of the six competing teams, the opposition is a lot stronger than last year, which is good news for national selectors.

“I’m hoping for tough games that are fought right until the end, but of course that will make it harder to defend the title and I think you’re going to see results swing from side to side as well.

 

“It will make it an interesting tournament and that’s what we want. From a spectator point of view, that’s great and from a player point of view as well, because they have to approach every game like it’s a final. That’s really where we want to peg this because that creates better hockey performances and better hockey players to select from, because when you get to big things like World Cups and Commonwealth Games, every game is a final. You want big characters in those games and you want those players who are never going to lie down and give up.”

 

It will be a very different Steph Baxter that steps onto the pitch at the 2017 Premier Hockey League at the end of the month.

Having impressed selectors at last year’s edition of the tournament, Baxter was picked for the South African women’s team.

Now, with 20 international caps to her credit, the 24-year-old is a far more confident player. She admits herself, she’s far better at expressing herself as well.

“Going into PHL this year, I’m a little more mature in my game and a little more outspoken. I’m a little quite at times and I think I’ve grown in that manner,” said the Potch student. 

Backing her all the way is coach of the St Lucia Lakers side she’ll be representing for a second consecutive year, Inky Zondi.

“Steph is an exciting young player with natural ability and lots of potential,” he said.

“She is a player who can change the course of a game through her attacking flair and I look forward to seeing her bring this through to the Lakers team in 2017. She creates dangerous attacking scenarios and the team can capitalise from this,” added the coach.

“Her exposure to top international competition and players in the SA team this year, particularly at the World League hosted here in Johannesburg would have benefited her hugely and grown her as an individual. Competing at that level can add confidence to a player's game and hopefully she can bring those learnings through this year at PHL 2017.”

The Lakers finished fourth at last year’s tournament but Baxter feels they’re a stronger outfit this time around.

“I’m super excited to be playing for the Lakers again in 2017. I think this year’s team is a little more experienced than last year. There’s a lot of depth in the side and I’m extremely excited to see what we can produce and how we get on as a unit.”

Other marquee players joining Baxter in the team are one of the stars of the SA side, veteran Shelley Jones, and other national teammates Quanita Bobbs and Kara Stella. They play their first game against the Orange River Rafters on Saturday, 25 November.

Zondi reckoned: “I believe this is a competitive group with a strong core of players from 2016 and I look forward to helping them progress from strength to strength each game.”

Speaking about how the PHL has played such an important part in her career, Baxter explained: “PHL is such a major tournament with all the big names partaking in this event. That did not scare me though. In fact, I saw it as another opportunity to learn and just enjoy hockey on such a scale as there aren’t many tournaments like PHL. Lenise Marais also played a big role as she gave me so much freedom to play my game and that gave me more confidence knowing she believed in me and my abilities.

“I think the PHL is important as it has reached a much larger audience and people have taken so much more interest in the sport, with it being televised by SuperSport. Having a bigger base and having people take more interest can only boost hockey more, causing more sponsorships and interest in our national teams.” 

The PHL group games will be played over three consecutive weekends, starting on 25 November, with the playoff matches contested on December 11-12. All matches will be played at the Randburg Astro in Johannesburg and will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

4 November 2017 – Ten coaches emerged from the pressure cooker of the player draft with their final teams that will do battle in the 2017 edition of the Premier Hockey League (PHL), starting later this month.

 

In a draft process reminiscent of the NBA and NFL, the coaches did battle for their preferred players. These players filled the remaining eight places after each side was allocated six marquee stars, chosen by the national high performance panel, to promote a level playing field. Coaches were required to release between four and eight players from their 2016 squads.

 

Head coach of the men’s defending champions, Maropeng Cavemen, Mark Sanders was a happy man after the conclusion of the draft.

 

“We’re very, very happy with the 2017 Cavemen,” he said. Speaking about some of the players he’d managed to snap up, Sanders added: “Thabang Modise, also known as Smiley, plays up here in Jo’burg at Wits University, and he is an exciting young player. Chad Fucher is also at Wits University and also very exciting. I’m happy. I think we’ve got some good quality youngsters and some fantastic players to help the older guys to retain their heads a bit sometimes.”

 

Sihle Ntuli, coach of the Drakensberg Dragons, said: “This year all teams have been given six marquee players which automatically brings extra quality to the teams. This concept is fantastic as some of the younger provincial players find themselves playing in the same environment as some of our senior international players. The national selectors in my opinion have split the marquee players up really well and the balance among the teams allows for a good contest over the three weeks.

 

“Going into year two I really believe the standard of the competition will pick up with both players and coaches having a better understanding of how to phase the tournament.”

 

Six men’s and six women’s team will contest the second edition of the PHL which gets under way on November 25 at the Randburg Astro in Johannesburg with further action on the following two weekends and the playoffs taking place on 11-12 December.

 

The respective under-21 teams had already been selected prior to the draft, but those not making the sides were available to be picked for the other squads.

 

Newly promoted to head coach of the Madikwe Rangers, who finished runners up last year, Tsoanelo Pholo, spoke about the pressure of the draft process.

 

“I’ve been in hot seats before as a coach next to the field but being in the draft room is something different – very, very exciting, on-the-edge stuff.

 

“I’m over the moon with every pick I got to make today. Long hours last night thinking about the players I wanted and I think I got every single one. I’m really excited to get going with a young and I think very talented team that I got to pick. It’s going to be a very competitive tournament and I’m looking forward to it.”

 

Coach of the Blyde River Bunters, 2016 champions of the women’s tournament, Lindsey Wright, meanwhile, was happy with the outcome of the draft.

 

“It was interesting. You’ve obviously got to make sure your plan is in order and look around players as to what the other teams were picking and then hopefully come up with alternative plans to meet the requirements of the team.

 

Speaking about the PHL in general, the former national captain added: “It’s an exciting concept. It fills a definite hole in South African hockey where competitive competition is needed. I think what was really exciting about 2016 was that every game was very closely fought and that’s exactly what SA hockey needs when they’re going into big events like World Cup and Commonwealth Games. You need to be playing consistently competitive hockey that brings out the right qualities in the national teams.”

 

Current national captain Nicolene Terblanche is one of the marquee players in the Bunters side.

 

“There are a lot of new players coming into the Bunters team which is cool. That’s the thing that makes the PHL so good – playing with different players from different provinces and I think the teams are more balanced this year so that’s exciting,” she said afterwards.

 

PHL schedule (all matches played at the Randburg Astro, Johannesburg):

November 25-26: Pool games

December 2-3: Pool games

December 9-10: Pool games

December 11-12: Playoffs

 

All matches will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

 

FINAL TEAMS:

 

MEN

 

Maropeng Cavemen: Clinton Panther, Rassie Pieterse, Tommy Hammond, Miguel De Graca, Lance Louw, Reza Rosenburg, Michael Abrahams, Hendy Seerane, Nicholas Berichon, Brynn Cleak, Ricky West, Bernard Greybe, Cameron MacKay, Lungani Gabela, Matthew Davies, Thabang Modise, Chad Futcher, Cerezo Comerasamy, Andrew Buckley, Brad Robertson, Coach: Mark Sanders

 

Drakensberg Dragons: Austin Smith, Gowan Jones, Jethro Eustice, Matt de Sousa, Melrick Maddocks, Nqobile Ntuli, Taylor Dart, Chad Cairncross, Nick Gonzalves, Dalan Phillips, Dylan Swanepoel, Cody van Wyk, David Agar, Mbuso Mgobozi, Tim Kirkman, Gareth Heynes, Amkelwe Letuka, Stephen McManus, Lance de Kock, Cameron Ryan, Coach: Sihle Ntuli

 

Addo Elephants: Julian Hykes, Ignatius Malgraaf, Robin Jones, Matthew Martins, Jonty Robinson, Dan Sibald, Sinoxolo Mbekeni, Onke Letuka, Jody Erasmus, Damian Kimfley, Andrew Manson, Jermaine Johnson, Joshua August, Brett Walraven, Chad Durrheim, Roberto Bosman, Winray Christoffels, Franco Carstens, Zamokuhle Ngubo, Bjorn Sorensen, Coach: Cheslyn Gie

 

Mapungubwe Mambas: Owen Mvimbi, Tevin Kok, Rusten Abrahams, Nduduzo Lembethe, Francois Pretorius, Richard Curtis, Travis Hardnick, Sizwe Mtembu, Kirwin Christoffels, Michael Marki, Callum Buchanan, Winchester Scott, Ross Gonzalves, Ross Hetem, Dillon Langeveld, Michael Forrest, Greg Last, Kewan Harries, Jarryd Jones, Steven Paulo, Coach: Krinesan Moodley

 

Garden Route Gazelles: Jean-Pierre De Voux, Keenan Horne, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Ryan Julius, Alex Stewart, Siya Nolutshungu, Reece Arendse, Satchi Reddy, Gerald Mpopo, Dylan Coombes, Michael Mulder, Lyndon Fredricks, Andile Ndlovu, Duncan Fischer, Le-Neal Jackson, Jayson Reed, Berne Burger, Shaun Baker, Brandon James, Craig Wiid, Coach: Mark Hopkins

 

Golden Gate Gladiators (U21):

Muzzamil Sheik, William Eveleigh, Andrew Hobson, Tyson Dlungwana, Courtney Hallé, Jared Cass, Jacki Mohlaba, Sam Mvimbi, Connor Beauchamp, Chris Makaba, Ross Campbell, Mark Chong, Matthew Roman, Luke Schooling, Che February, Spencer Botes, Dayaan Cassiem, Max Pike, Brad Sherwood, Laython Coombs, Coach: Gareth Ewing

 

 

 

 

WOMEN

 

Blyde River Bunters: Phumi Mbande, Nicolene Terblanche, Izelle Verster, Natalie Esteves, Celia Evans, Marizen Marais, Elmien Marais, Anel Luus, Lauren Nina, Kaydee Miller, Christine Roos, Chrizelle Andries, Onthatile Segaole-Zulu, Julia Fleming, Sinalo Jafta, Carmen Smith, Nicole Kemp, Marissa Poolman, Meeghan Klomp, Hannli Hattingh, Coach: Lindsey Wright

 

Orange River Rafters: Cheree Greyvenstein, Dirkie Chaimberlaine, Tarryn Mallet, Amy Ethrington, Jessica de Bruyn Smith, Sulette Damons, Luche Klaasen, Zimasa Dunywa, Bronwyn Kretzman, Nicole Koenig, Sulize de Klerk, Cornelle Holtzhausen, Francisco Darkoh, Kelsey Minaar, Leratho Mahlangu, Jackie Scheepers, Donna Small, Chane Hartel, Amy Celeste Greaves, Georgia Grobler, Coach: Shaun Hulley

 

Madikwe Rangers: Mmatshepo Modipane, Lisa Deetlefs, Bernadette Coston, Toni Marks, Sylvia van Jaarsveldt, Lillian du Plessis, Louise de Jager, Lisa Hawker, Amore de Wet, Cheneal Raubenheimer, Isabella Da Rocha, Courtney Abrahams, Lelethu Ndakisa, Anel van der Venter, Shindre-Lee Simmons, Lezaan Janse van Vuuren, Kerry Eagleton (Pearton), Londeka Dlamini, Claire Gibbings, Robyn Pinder, Coach: Tsoanelo Pholo

 

St Lucia Lakers: Marileze van Tonder, Kara Stella, Shelley Jones, Quanita Bobbs, Erin Hunter, Stephanie Baxter, Heraldine Olin, Chardinay Penniston, Jenna Shuker, Karen Bowyer, Zimi Shange, Kelly Reed, Pollert Mashau, Bianca Wood, Kim Hubach, Ayanga Baleni, Megan Anderson, Tiffany Jones, Paige Phillips, Charne Hill, Coach: Inky Zondi

 

Wineland Wings: Nicole La Fleur, Jade Mayne, Ilse Davids, Jess O'Connor, Tarryn Glasby, Line Malan, Robyn Johnson, Cathrine McNaulty, Nomphilo Thenjwayo, Michelle Dias, Anche Nortje, Kaila Flemming, Thando Chiti, Sonika van Heerden, Kirsten Leigh Wagner, Hope Nkosi, Miche Bennett, Daniella Rhodes, Sasha Sivertsen, Lida Kotze, Coach: Ryan Pillay

 

Namaqualand Daisies (U21): Kirsty Adams, Monique Bartsch, Stephanie Botha, Frances Carstens, Ashleigh Datnow, Courtney du Preez, Tegan Fourie, Lizanne Jacobs, Mmamoagi Agi Kungoane, Charnè Maddoks, Sisipho Magwaza (gk), Ongeziwe Mali, Kristen Paton, Hannah Pearce, Jamie Southgate, Sadisiwe Tabata, Nomnikelo Veto Moya Smith (gk), Simone Gouws, Casey Jane Botha, Coach: Rob van Ginkel

 

For more information: Karien Jonckheere, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 0760282057

 

 

The South African national women’s hockey team finished fifth at the FIH Hockey World League Semi-Finals.

South Africa beat Japan 2-1 in the fifth place play-off match played at the Wits hockey stadium in Johannesburg.

The home team ended the first chukka with a flurry of penalty corners, but could not score despite the opportunities to take the lead early on. Soon after the start of the second chukka South Africa got a penalty stroke after a Japanese player blocked the ball with her body in front of the goal-box. Lillian du Plessis converted the stroke to give SA the lead. It was Du Plessis’ second goal of the tournament.

Tarryn Glasby gave South Africa a two-goal lead in the 23rd minute after a good pass from Shelley Jones. It was Glasby’s first goal of the tournament.

Japan’s only goal of the match came after some five minutes of play in the third chukka. Yuri Nagai hit the back of the goal-box for her team.

In the last few minutes Japan played with a kicking-back for the extra attacking player. They desperately worked for that equaliser but the South African defenders gave them no space to attack.

South Africa is 13th on the world rankings and Japan 11th. By finishing in the top 6 of the tournament the SA women qualified for the 2018 FIH World Cup in London.

The African Championships is later in the year and if the SA Women win that tournament South Africa will be in the Top 10 of the world rankings. 

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