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Ken Borland


Archive for the ‘Hockey’


SA have a few injuries, but Euro franchise stars ‘look sharp’ 0

Posted on October 26, 2023 by Ken

South Africa men’s hockey coach Cheslyn Gie (right) and captain Dayaan Cassiem at the launch of the Africa Olympic Qualifier at the University of Pretoria.
Photo: Lee Warren

The South African men’s hockey team will go into their African Hockey Olympic Qualifier in Pretoria from Sunday with a few injury withdrawals but a full complement of their available stars playing for European franchises.

The winners of the eight-team men’s competition, which concludes with the final on Sunday, November 5, will qualify directly for the Paris Olympics next July, so the stakes are high and SA coach Cheslyn Gie is delighted with the squad he has.

“Unfortunately we’ve had a few injuries, but it is still a very good squad and our training camp has gone very well,” Gie said at the University of Pretoria, where the tournament will be held, on Thursday.

“Clayton Saker, Le-Neal Jackson and Connor Beauchamp, who is one of our drag-flickers, are all out with knee injuries. Unfortunately that’s three defenders ruled out, and Chad Futcher and goalkeeper Siya Nolutshungu have both just started new jobs and cannot get leave, our team being an amateur one.

“But everyone else is good to go and our European-based players are in the midst of their season. They’ve all played four-to-six matches and they are looking really sharp, despite having to travel long distances to get here.

“This is a very important tournament for us, it always is, and I’ve never experienced any easy matches in it. It’s a bit of a worry that we haven’t played a Test since the World Cup at the beginning of the year and we will need to adjust quickly to the pace of international hockey and it’s something we’ve tried to simulate in our training camp,” Gie said.

Speaking of drag-flickers, Gie said he was concerned about Nigeria’s arsenal of these penalty corner goal-scoring specialists, but he also warned about the challenge perennial finalists Egypt, Kenya and Ghana will pose, even though South Africa have won every one of these qualifying tournaments. Fortunately those last three teams are all in the other pool, with Namibia, while the hosts will take on Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Uganda and should comfortably finish in the top two of their section, thereby qualifying for the semi-finals.

“Egypt are definitely going to be strong contenders, but Nigeria have three very good drag-flickers and Ghana are always strong. They actually led against Egypt in the semi-finals of the last qualifier, but missed some tap-in goals. Kenya are also very physical and strong, and they’ve been together for a while with their whole U21 squad coming through.

“You can’t underestimate how quickly things change in this tournament. There’s a lot of ebb and flow in the games too, and we have to make sure that when things are going well for us, we score the goals, and when things are not going well, we keep the opposition out,” Gie said.

Celia Seerane (right) and assistant coach Inky Zondi of the SA women’s hockey team.
Photo: Lee Warren

South Africa’s women’s team have also won all four of the previous qualifying tournaments, but experienced star Celia Seerane said although their preparation has been outstanding, thoughts of just pitching up and cleaning up the opposition are far-fetched.

“It’s probably the best prepared we’ve ever been for the Africa Cup, we are ready and focused and enjoying the comforts of playing at home, but we can’t take anything for granted.

“History tells us that Ghana are going to be tough opponents and I remember when we went 1-0 down to them in a final in Kenya,” Seerane said.

Assistant coach Inky Zondi had a similar warning.

“All the teams have their unique style, which makes it very exciting. Nigeria will be very physical, they play quite an exciting brand of hockey and they have the combinations to do well in small spaces. Ghana are always a force, as are Kenya,” Zondi said.

South Africa play Nigeria and Zimbabwe in their pool, while Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Zambia are in the other group in the seven-team women’s competition.

South Africa’s men open their campaign against Zimbabwe at 6pm on Sunday, while the women play the same country, at 4pm.

Highs & lows of 2022: The shock wins & humiliating defeats 0

Posted on August 29, 2023 by Ken

Highs

  • The Bulls pulling off a shock victory over Leinster in the 2021/22 United Rugby Championship semi-final in Dublin, overcoming the daunting challenge against the giants of European rugby, laden with Irish internationals. The Bulls produced an inspired performance to stun the juggernauts 27-26, ensuring Leinster went trophyless for the first time since 2017. It was a mighty display of physicality and fierce defensive effort.
  • The Proteas sealing a memorable series win over India, their superb pace attack revelling at home and their batsmen showing impressive toughness against a feisty bowling line-up. Despite their greatness as a cricketing nation, India have never won a Test series in South Africa, and the Proteas had to win the last two Tests to maintain that record. It was an exceptional achievement against the powerhouse Indian team, especially since South Africa produced two top-class fourth-innings chases to secure the thrilling win.
  • The South African men’s hockey team had to deal with many frustrations in 2022, as usual, so roaring to victory in the FIH Nations Cup in Potchefstroom, despite the resignation of coach Garreth Ewing on the eve of the tournament, was a remarkable effort. Victory over Ireland in the final meant South Africa grabbed the single qualification spot for the 2023/24 FIH Pro League, where they will compete on a regular basis with top teams like Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and India. One can only praise interim coach Cheslin Gie and his charges.

Lows

  • South Africa have kissed many toads when it comes to cricket world cups but this year’s defeat to minnows the Netherlands and subsequent exit from the T20 World Cup at the group stage might be the worst blow-out of them all. Despite a washout against Zimbabwe, everything was going swimmingly as the Proteas needed to win just one of their last two matches, against Pakistan and the Netherlands, to reach the semi-finals. A desperate Pakistan side put up a stout effort to beat South Africa by 33 runs, but the Proteas looked astonishingly short of energy in the crunch match against the Dutch. A lacklustre bowling effort was followed by a miserable batting performance as they limped to 145 for eight and a humiliating defeat.
  • The sheer greed exposed by the breakaway LIV Golf Tour. One would think the world’s leading golfers have enough fancy motor cars, luxurious villas and lavish luxury goods, but apparently not.
  • Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber’s decision to not use the services of his first-choice team for the Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand at Ellis Park. After South Africa’s magnificent victory in Nelspruit (one of the highlights of the year), the All Blacks were hanging by a prayer, their coach Ian Foster and their captain Sam Cane being on the verge of being axed one year out from the World Cup. But instead of ruthlessly finishing off the job against their old rivals the following weekend, Nienaber took the foot off their neck by leaving key players on the bench at Ellis Park, resulting in an impressive 35-23 triumph for New Zealand, on their way to winning the tournament.

SA hockey team overcome miscellaneous challenges in remarkable triumph 0

Posted on April 13, 2023 by Ken

The South African men’s hockey team has had to overcome miscellaneous challenges ranging from the shock departure of their coach to having to pay thousands of rands to compete and having to stay in a boarding house in Potchefstroom, so their victory in the FIH Nations Cup at the weekend was a remarkable, most praiseworthy effort.

More important than winning the trophy itself, the thrilling 4-3 victory over Ireland in the final means South Africa get the single qualification spot for the 2023/24 FIH Pro League, where they will compete on a regular basis with top teams like Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and India.

South Africa beat Malaysia, France, Canada and Ireland, all teams higher up on the world rankings, to achieve this brilliant feat.

One can only salute the skill, hunger and determination the team showed in the final; they produced some sublime attacking hockey, led by inspirational 22-year-old captain and player of the tournament Dayyaan Cassiem, but their defence, marshalled by veteran Jethro Eustice, was exceptional as they held off numerous Irish onslaughts in the final quarter.

With so much on the line, one can only praise interim coach Cheslin Gie and his charges for showing tremendous composure.

One hopes there are assorted sponsors lining up to support them now that they are going to be getting regular exposure on the global stage. A capacity crowd in Potchefstroom, a fully transformed team and the exciting brand of hockey they play should make it one of the easier sales for SA Hockey to now pull off.

Hockey has enormous support at grassroots level with it being one of the most popular school sports, so the potential for sustained growth is big, providing they get the right backing and the administration is focused on selling the game.

The World Cup in India in January is the next major event on the international hockey calendar and an opportunity for South Africa to move closer to their long-term goal of getting into the top-10 of the rankings.

Ewing resigns as national men’s coach, did he hide SA Hockey failings with his fine performances? 0

Posted on February 16, 2023 by Ken

Garreth Ewing has resigned with immediate effect as the national men’s hockey coach and there are fears in South African hockey circles that the fine performances he achieved with the team were merely hiding the level of maladministration in the game and tough times lie ahead for the team.

Ewing made public on social media on Tuesday the reasons for his shock decision to leave his post, just before the FIH Nations Cup tournament starts in Potchefstroom on November 28. The 48-year-old said his resignation was “a final response to an accumulation of events … These were starting to impact on me, both personally and professionally. The weight of it all was putting strain on my relationships, both inside and outside the team, and my health, both physical and mental”.

Describing his decision as “an act of self-care”, Ewing said he will “look forward to falling in love with hockey again”.

Under his watch since 2019, South Africa were winless and last in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, despite beating Germany 4-3. They were, though, invited to participate in the elite Pro League and earlier this year they reached the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games for the first time in 20 years and have qualified for next year’s World Cup since then with their strong showings seeing Ewing nominated this year for the FIH Coach of the Year award. They have moved up to 14th in the world rankings.

But insiders speak of all these achievements being despite the administration and not because of it. One stakeholder from the sponsorship market told The Citizen “SA Hockey are the most amateur and disorganised sports body we work with”.

Amongst the frustrations cited by those around the team are the players being told three days before leaving for Malaysia and the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup that they had to come up with R41 000 each to play in the tournament.

For the FIH Nations Cup in Potchefstroom, which will decide the one team who joins the Pro League next year, the South African team will not be staying in the Astro Villas next to the venue, but instead the home team has had to stay in a school boarding house free of charge. This is because SA Hockey allegedly missed the deadline to apply for accommodation.

It is apparently not the first time SA Hockey have missed a deadline. Potchefstroom were going to bid to hoist the 2026 World Cup and were ready to fly to Switzerland to present their case, with SA Hockey only needing to get permission from the Department of Sport, which they failed to do.

The team are also apparently furious that the SA Hockey Association did not bother to vote for either Ewing or star SA women’s player Phumelela Mbande, who was nominated for the goalkeeper of the year award.

The lack of sponsorship for the national hockey teams is well-known and they have had to resort to crowdfunding to attend the previous Olympics.

“We want to know what work has been done to get a sponsor? Sponsors have told us that they don’t know if the money will go to the team if they do invest, and if we get a sponsor, then SA Hockey says they have to go through their marketing department. How are we meant to prepare properly when we only know a week before for sure that we’re going to a tournament?” a member of the national squad said.

While the North-West University love hosting international events in Potchefstroom, it is believed SA Hockey still owe them money for hosting fees. The Citizen were not able to confirm this with the university’s hockey administration, however.

Since the much-admired Marissa Langeni stepped down as CEO in April after more than 12 years at the helm, SA Hockey appointed an interim CEO in Shaune Baaitjies, who has a BCom Honours in Industrial and Organisational Psychology and describes herself as a leadership coach on her LinkedIn profile.

SA Hockey have also not held their election for a new executive for more than a year, reportedly because president Deon Morgan was making a run for a position on the FIH Board. He has now been elected as part of the executive team at global level and it is believed a date and nominees have been decided for an election, but no statement has been made by the federation.

Baaitjies did not respond to questions about all these issues sent to her by The Citizen.

Although it is a mass participation sport at grassroots level and both national teams are impressively transformed, how hockey is going to ensure sustainability with all these leadership issues is a massive concern.

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    Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

    Our foundation must be absolute surrender, devotion and obedience to God, rising from pure love for him. Jesus Christ must be central in all things and his will must take precedence over the will of people, regardless of how well-meaning they may be.

    Surrender yourself unconditionally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then you will be able to identify what is of man with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be able to serve – in love! – according to God’s will.



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