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Ken Borland

18-year-olds & seasoned veterans all in the race for SA hockey 0

Posted on May 29, 2017 by Ken


Featuring 18-year-olds to seasoned veterans, South Africa’s national men’s and women’s hockey squads for the year were announced on Thursday and are part of the South African Hockey Association’s planning through to next year’s Commonwealth Games and the race to regain as many of their world ranking points as they can.

Due to the loss of ranking points caused by not participating in last year’s Rio Olympics, South Africa’s women have slipped to 13th in the world rankings and the men are 15th. Nevertheless, South Africa will host the prestigious World League semi-finals for both men and women from July 3-24 and, with several top-10 nations taking part, even the smallest upset should improve their ranking.

Australia, Germany, Belgium, New Zealand, Ireland and Spain are the top-10 men’s sides coming to Johannesburg, while England, Argentina, the USA and Germany are the leading nations taking part in the women’s tournament.

A 25-strong women’s squad has been named and, even though there are no new caps, convenor of selectors Mickey Gordon explained that a structure had been put in place to improve the youth profile of the team.

“With a view to the World League Semi-Finals, the Africa Cup of Nations in August and the Commonwealth Games next April, and possibly the World Cup later in 2018, we have chosen a fairly long-term squad so we can look at selection from a consistent basis. We’ve set out to change the age profile because we have a lot of qualifying to do and these youngsters can gain experience.

“We will use all 25 players in the build-up to the next World Cup and we need to get youth into the squad. I sit on the U16 to U21 national selection panels as well in order to get some consistency. We want to grow our talent and if you look at world standards these days, then there is a predominance of youth,” Gordon said.

That does not mean experience is being thrown out the window though, and stalwarts of the South African side such as Nicolene Terblanche, Bernadette Coston, Sulette Damons, Ilse Davids and Shelley Jones (nee Russell) have all been included in the squad.

That applies to the men’s squad as well, with the likes of Rassie Pieterse, 34-year-old Julian Hykes, Jethro Eustice and Owen Mvimbi chosen alongside new cap Melrick Maddocks and 18-year-old Dayaan Cassiem.

There are nine members of the KZN Coastals team that won the recent IPT in the squad and national coach Fabian Gregory said it was the selectors’ intention that form be rewarded.

“KZN did exceptionally well to win IPT, playing well both as a group and with stand-out individual players. We wanted to send the correct message that IPT has not been watered down and we will reward form there. So Melrick is rewarded for being one of the top strikers there as is his team-mate Julian, who was the top goal-scorer for Southern Gauteng,” Gregory said.

The 43-year-old Gregory said he will cut the squad down from 21 to 18 for the World League Semi-Finals.

For both the men’s and women’s national squads, the next couple of years promise plenty of playing opportunities against the top nations in world hockey.

“Our world ranking being lower does not make things easier for us, but there is a total plan in place to rejuvenate our competitiveness. Not playing enough games is killing us due to a lack of sponsorship, but we have the talent, we just need to spend more time working together as a team,” Gordon said.

SA Womens Squad: Kirsty Adams (Boland), Stephanie Baxter (North-West), Kara Botes nee Stella (KZN Coastals), Nicole la Fleur (Western Province), Candice Manual (Western Province), Nicolene Terblance (Northerns Blues), Izelle Verster (Northerns Blues), Quanita Bobbs (Western Province), Bernadette Coston (Southern Gauteng), Sulette Damons (North-West), Ilse Davids (Western Province), (Lisa Deetlefs (Southern Gauteng), Lilian du Plessis (Southern Gauteng), Celia Evans (Northerns Blues), Tarryn Glasby (Western Province), Erin Hunter (KZN Coastals), Shelley Jones nee Russell (KZN Coastals), Marizen Marais (Northerns Blues), Jade Mayne (Western Province), Phumelela Mbande (Northerns Blues), Line Malan (Western Province), Jessica O’Connor (KZN Coastals), Carmen Smith (Southern Gauteng), Marelize van Tonder (Northerns Blues), Nicole Walraven (Free State).

SA Mens Squad: Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng), Gowan Jones (KZN Coastals), Jethro Eustice (KZN Coastals), Robin Jones (KZN Coastals), Tyson Dlungwana (Southern Gauteng), Mohamed Mea (KZN Coastals), Jonty Robinson (KZN Coastals), Dan Sibbald (KZN Coastals), Reza Rosenburg (Southern Gauteng), Ryan Julius (Western Province), Clinton Panther (KZN Coastals), Owen Mvimbi (Southern Gauteng), Julian Hykes (Southern Gauteng), Ryan Crowe (Western Province), Nqobile Ntuli (KZN Coastals), Ignatius Malgraff  (Eastern Province), Dayaan Cassiem (Western Province), Richard Pautz (Northerns Blues), Tevin Kok (Northerns Blues), Melrick Maddocks (Southern Gauteng), Damien Kimfley (KZN Coastals).

Sands of time move quickly at Loftus as Nollis unearths new talent 0

Posted on November 09, 2015 by Ken


The sands of time have moved quickly at Loftus Versfeld this year and Bulls coach Nollis Marais is already deep into his planning for the new SuperRugby season early next year.

While he confirmed that he is still having “on-going negotiations” with a couple of players with a view to luring them to Loftus Versfeld, Marais said he believes he already has the bulk of the players he needs; it’s just that their talents have previously been buried.

“We will add on a bit to the Currie Cup side and I’m busy working on that, talking to a couple of guys, but we’ve got the players, we just need to develop them. The skills aren’t good enough and there will be a huge emphasis on that. Before I do any game plan, I need to know the execution will be there, so the skills and conditioning need to be better, that’s going to be a huge drive for me,” Marais said.

The newly-appointed SuperRugby coach has his eye on forwards in the main in terms of acquisitions, because with the players at Loftus Versfeld already, the Bulls should have a very exciting backline next year.

“I’ve come a long way with Handre Pollard, we won the Varsity Cup together at Tuks, and he’s an excellent player. I met with him last weekend before he left for Japan and with the way we want to play in future and the way the game is developing, he’s going to have a massive role to play because he’s a brilliant flyhalf. He just needs some freedom around a few things.

“I was the first to try Jesse Kriel at centre, because I rated Duncan Matthews as a very good fullback and they turned an U21 final for me. So we have Duncan and Warrick Gelant at 15, who are both good young fullbacks, and Jesse Kriel can play both, but I like him at 13,” Marais said.

Adding to the backline riches are Springboks Rudi Paige and Bjorn Basson, while in midfield, Marais has tough choices to make at inside centre between Burger Odendaal, Jan Serfontein and Dries Swanepoel.


Meyer’s planning & mental skills set him apart – Spies 0

Posted on July 06, 2012 by Ken

Pierre Spies has served the Springboks under Jake White, Peter de Villiers and now Heyneke Meyer, and the eighthman says South Africa’s newest coach’s strengths of precise planning and mental skills will keep the team moving forward.

“It’s been a great privilege to play under three Springbok coaches now and they’ve all had a significant impact on my career,” Spies tells Midi Olympique at his home fortress of Loftus Versfeld.

“Heyneke has such amazing plans set out for the team and has a great pride in the Springbok jersey. He is someone who really enjoys the psychological side of things and he always has an interesting story to tell which motivates the players.

“That’s what makes him special and also that he is such a meticulous planner.”

Spreading the ball wide is not a major feature of the Meyer plan and Spies explains that this was because he wanted the Springboks to play to their strengths – massive forwards who can carry the ball and dominate the tight phases.

“It’s important for us to get momentum, to build pressure and then convert that into points, because that’s what rugby is about. The result is all that matters,” Spies says.

The Springboks began the Meyer era with a 2-0 series win over England, but the final Test was drawn 14-14 in Port Elizabeth with the home side struggling to match the hunger and intensity of the visitors.

“It’s important that we learn from the last game, but I think the series as a whole went really well. We were together as a group for just three weeks and it was a massive challenge because England had been together for the whole Six Nations and were desperate for the result.

“We had to work really hard, but Heyneke and the management team planned things properly and we were able to build and lay a good foundation for the Rugby Championship,” Spies says.

While the 27-year-old believes the Springboks can only get better, he adds that England have sent out a clear message that they are gearing up well for another World Cup challenge on home turf in 2015.

“England have some great players and if they can keep this squad together for a few more years, then they will definitely be a threat at the next World Cup,” Spies says.

“But we’ve also laid a good foundation. England were definitely fresher than us and had much better preparation because we came straight off SuperRugby, while they played Six Nations together and then had a break.

“That’s why it was such a good result for us. We hadn’t played together for a while and the only way for us to get better is by playing together,” Spies says.

The former wing is heading into a crunch game for his Bulls team on Friday night when they take on the Sharks in Durban. Defeat for Spies and his men will signal the end of the road for their hopes of topping the South African Conference.

But even so, it has still been an impressive campaign for the Bulls, considering they have lost so much experience with the departures of Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw, Gurthro Steenkamp, Gary Botha and Derick Kuhn.

“As a group, at the beginning of the season, we looked at the calendar and set goals for ourselves. Even though we lost a lot of experience, we still have the right mix of youth and talent and experience. Hopefully this will set us up for the years ahead.

“The management group has set us up nicely for the final run-in now and we’re heading into an exciting part of the tournament. There’s a lot at stake, but we must just focus on our play and our processes.”

With the changing of the guard at Loftus Versfeld, Spies was given the captaincy and the committed Christian has handled the added responsibility relatively easily.

“It’s a journey on which I learn every day. I’m just very proud to be part of such a talented group. There’s a great environment created by the management and the culture around the players is very special.

“It’s a great honour and I learn a lot every day. Hopefully I’ll be captain for a few more seasons,” Spies says.

With the publication of his autobiography, More than Rugby, last year, Spies revealed an impressive ability to rise above hardship – the loss of his father when he was still a teenager and injuries that kept him out of the U19 World Championship and the 2007 World Cup with a potentially career-ending blood condition.

So it is no surprise that he still believes the Bulls have a date with destiny with the SuperRugby final on August 4.

“Our mentality is the same as always, we want to win every game.”

And after that comes the Rugby Championship, which the Springboks will finish on October 6 at the stunning FNB Stadium in Soweto, the venue for the 2010 Soccer World Cup final.

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