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Ken Borland

Hockey’s junior stars are talented & transformed 0

Posted on May 03, 2016 by Ken


The South African men’s U21 team played in the final of the Greenfields Senior Interprovincial Nationals in Randburg on Saturday, showing that there is plenty of young talent coming through the ranks. But they are also thoroughly transformed with eight players of colour in the squad, including six Black Africans, showing that hockey is heading away from the representivity frustrations that have dogged them in the past.

And while “quotas” is a word bandied about by the older generation, it is not a hip word when it comes to hockey’s rising young talent.

“It hasn’t been difficult at all to find players of colour for the team because these guys have come through the age-groups, they’ve played together in the U16s and U18s, where there is a heck of a lot of good quality. The core of this side have played Tests together for the SA U18s and made the Junior Olympics semi-finals with the SA U17s, both under Neville Rothman, my assistant coach.

“So there are no quota – I hate that word – players in the team. They were all born after 1995 and have played in every national team together, so there is no baggage. They say it themselves in team meetings that the colour of your skin makes no difference. There’s a very positive feeling in this squad, there’s such a positive culture,” SA U21 coach Garreth Ewing said.

The players of colour in the current squad that is beating seasoned professionals at the senior IPT are composed midfielder Tyson Dlungwana, defender Nduduza Lembethe, Ryan Julius, an elusive runner with the ball, forward Khumo Mokale, the skilful Nqobile Ntuli, pacy Tevin Kok, solid Amkelwa Letuka and goalkeeper Siyavuya Nolutshungu, and they would comfortably be playing in this IPT for their provincial sides were they not on national duty.

“Obviously we do pay close attention to the players of colour, but a lot of them are our best players. Some of them are going to be superstars. They have a long way to go, but their ability and decision-making under pressure is already so good. I can’t wait to see where they all go, six of them already have full national caps,” Ewing said.

Ewing, who has considerable experience coaching both locally and internationally, clearly likes the emphasis on bringing through players of colour that has to be there if South African hockey are to get back to where they want to be – in the upper echelons of the world game.

“What is coming through underneath shows that there is so much potential. We’re not afraid of targets, we embrace them. Things don’t happen overnight, but we’re getting there. The guys play with such joy and style, their hockey is so attractive,” Ewing said.

Most encouragingly, Black coaches are also starting to come through. The losing semi-finalists, KZN Raiders and the Northerns Blues, are coached by Sihle Ntuli and Krinesan Moodley respectively. WP Peninsula are coached by Denzil Dolley and the team they played in the B Section final, KZN Mynahs, are mentored by Sharmin Naidoo

Patrick Tshutshani is Ewing’s counterpart with the junior women, Ryan Pillay coached the Western Province women’s team and even the Mpumalanga women’s team have a Black African coach in Brighty Mshaba.

Numerous other players of colour have shone with Jermaine Johnson and Julian Hykes both playing key roles in getting Southern Gauteng into the men’s final, while Pierre de Voux of Western Province and KZN’s Mohamed Mea are two newer players that are going to have the national selectors’ eyes on them.

The story is the same in the women’s section: Southern Gauteng are going to take on Northerns Blues in the final with Sanani Mangisa their stalwart in goal and Toni Marks and Lisa Hawker two of their man threats up front.

Northerns have Mmatshepo Modipane in goal.

But there is a challenge that SA Hockey will need outside help to overcome and, as ever, it is a financial one.

“The financial challenges for the previously disadvantaged players is huge. Consider the cost of going to our world cup – and the players have to pay! My biggest fear is having to leave someone behind because they can’t afford it,” Ewing says sombrely.

Four South Africans have Ford in their sights 0

Posted on October 28, 2015 by Ken


Matt Ford produced another marvellous round on the second day of the Africa Open at East London Golf Club to lead going into the weekend, but he will have several dangerous pursuers, including four South Africans, in the second half of the co-sanctioned European/Sunshine Tour event.

Ford backed up his 67 in the first round with a six-under-par 66 on Friday and enjoys a one-stroke lead heading into the weekend on 11-under-par.

Kevin Phelan, who shared the first-round lead, and Richard Bland, who was one stroke back, both slipped down the leaderboard, but Ford still has 10 golfers within four shots of him.

Spain’s Edoardo de la Riva is second on 10-under-par after shooting a 66, a score which was matched by Jaco van Zyl and Erik Van Rooyen.  The pair leads the South African charge on eight-under-par alongside Frenchman Gregory Havret.

Two more locals, Neil Schietekat and Trevor Fisher Junior, are on seven-under and share sixth position with Maximilian Kieffer, Mark Tullo, David Howell and John Parry.

South Africans have won all seven previous editions of the Africa Open, and with Van Zyl, Van Rooyen, Schietekat and Fisher Junior all moving up the leaderboard, they have a good chance of continuing that streak.

The 36-year-old Ford has dreamed for a long time of competing on the European Tour, going back to Qualifying School 10 times before finally winning his card last November, and he is looking more and more comfortable at this level, managing to follow a low round with another one for the first time.

“I played nicely today, I’m very happy. It’s been two good rounds and hopefully there are two to come. I gave myself plenty of opportunities and was inside 15 feet 11 times. I was just trying to hit good shots and take advantage of the slightly easier conditions,” Ford said after a round that featured six birdies, an eagle and two bogeys.

But how Ford handles the pressures of the unknown remains to be seen. Van Zyl, with 13 Sunshine Tour titles, has much more experience of winning, even though he is yet to claim a European Tour title, despite having six top-three finishes.

“I’ve got to take it one shot at a time and not get ahead of myself. But if I give myself as many opportunities as I can to win, then it has to happen some time. But you’ve obviously got to play nicely and being in contention brings different pressures and expectations. But life will become a lot easier once I get one under the belt,” Van Zyl said.

The highlight of Van Zyl’s round, which began on the ninth hole, was a run of eagle-birdie-birdie from the third hole, and the 36-year-old said it was down to his putter.

“I’m probably at about 70% of how well I can drive, but now I’m making the putts. I had 27 yesterday and 25 today. Yesterday was really tough though and I was very chuffed I managed to shoot two-under. It was a lot easier this morning, it was totally different today, a lot of the holes were into a little breeze but there were still quite a few holes to capitalise on,” Van Zyl said.

The Dainfern Country Club representative, who is making an impressive comeback from surgery on both knees last year, says he just feels enormously comfortable at East London Golf Club, as long as he is not being blown off his feet by the wind.

“This course just suits my eye. It feels like even if I play 70% of my best I’ll still break par, while on some other courses you can be playing at 100% and still struggle to break par,” Van Zyl said.

Kieffer, a German, produced the round of the day with a top-class nine-under-par 63. He started with a bogey five on the ninth hole, but then went on a superb run of five birdies in seven holes on the back nine.

The front nine started with Kieffer draining a 15-foot putt for eagle on the par-five first hole and a trio of birdies followed to complete a dazzling round which lifted a relative rookie on the European Tour from a tie for 89th position right up to a tie for sixth.

Schietekat is starting to show the consistency on the tour that he showed as a teenager on the amateur circuit and he ensured he stayed in contention with a solid three-under-par 69.

“It was quite nice to have some calm weather this morning but I’m not hitting the ball exactly the way I want to. But my putting got me out of trouble and the draw worked nicely for me. Maybe something will happen this weekend … ” Schietekat said.

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