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Ken Borland



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.

Bit low-key, but SA another women’s team enters World Cup combat 0

Posted on August 11, 2022 by Ken

It’s all a bit low-key, but another South African women’s sport enters into World Cup combat this weekend as Giles Bonnet’s hockey team take on Belgium on Sunday in their opening match in Terrassa, Spain.

South Africa, ranked a lowly 15th in the world, are in Pool D with Australia, Belgium and Japan, with the top side qualifying directly for the quarterfinals and the second and third-placed teams going into cross-pool playoffs to make the final eight.

Belgium, ranked second in the world in men’s hockey, may be an understated force in the women’s game, but they are No.5 in the world and the game has made great strides with the ladies in that north-western European kingdom as well. Bonnet had much to do with the growth of Belgium into a global force, coaching the men’s side for seven years.

With Australia being the third-ranked team in the world, it is crucial South Africa try and take some points off Belgium and 10th-ranked Japan if they are to make the quarterfinals.

It is South Africa’s seventh consecutive appearance at the World Cup and Bonnet, back as coach for the first time since 2014, has chosen a squad featuring a number of Olympians, including Lisa Deetlefs, a veteran of three Games who has reversed her decision to retire from international hockey.

Bernadette Coston, who played in the 2012 London Olympics under Bonnet, who guided them to 10th place, is also included.

Jean-Leigh du Toit, Kayla de Waal and Christa Ramasimong were members of the SA Junior World Cup team that performed admirably in Potchefstroom to secure a seventh place finish and will also have the remarkable honour of playing in two FIH World Cups within six months.

“I have seen tremendous effort and energy from the team since my return to the post,” Bonnet said. “We know we face a tough challenge at the World Cup against some superb opponents, but we are excited for the opportunity.

“I am really pleased with the team we have put together, there is a healthy mixture of youth and experience. We believe that we have the right tools at our disposal to compete against the best.”

With half of the tournament being played on their home turfs in Amstelveen, the prices are low that the Netherlands will complete a hat-trick of World Cup titles, although Argentina have form behind them, having won the recent FIH Pro League and they have appeared in five finals before.

South Africa play Japan on Tuesday and then Australia on Wednesday.

SA squad –Quanita Bobbs, Marizen Marais, Erin Christie, Phumelela Mbande, Bernadette Coston, Edith Molikoe, Kayla de Waal, Kristen Paton, Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, Hannah Pearce, Lilian du Plessis, Christa Ramasimong, Jean-Leigh du Toit, Nepo Serage, Robyn Johnson, Shindre-Lee Simmons, Tarryn Lombard, Bianca Wood, Hanrie Louw, Onthatile Zulu.

FIH Pro League ideal avenue to measure SA progress – Ewing 0

Posted on March 01, 2022 by Ken

The FIH Pro League that will be hosted in Potchefstroom from Tuesday provides the South African men’s team with the ideal avenue of measuring their progress against the top hockey nations in the world, according to national coach Garreth Ewing.

South Africa will come up against India, the Netherlands and Germany, all inside the top-six on the world rankings, in the tournament that runs through to February 21 and features 14 matches, eight of them involving the hosts.

“It’s an amazing opportunity, although it will be incredibly tough,” Ewing told The Citizen. “But we’ve got to play against the very best in the world if we are going to find out what we need to grow as a team.

“You’re never going to play against teams in the top eight of the rankings without them being strong outfits, but teams in the Pro League do mix up their line-ups a bit.

“It’s often used an opportunity to expose new players because it’s considered the beginning of the next Olympic cycle. And that’s the same as what I’m doing. But the top sides will have their usual superstars here as well,” Ewing said.

South Africa’s squad will include three players who have graduated from the ‘pram’ of the SA U21 team into the senior game – Clayton Saker, Connor Beauchamp and Sihle Ngubane.

And the prodigies that are the Cassiem brothers – Dayaan and Mustapha – are both back in the fold.

Unfortunately, South Africa will be without their regular captain, Tim Drummond. Because hockey is strictly speaking an amateur sport in South Africa, many of the players don’t have much leeway when it comes to taking leave from their full-time jobs and the veteran midfielder has had to declare himself unavailable.

Fellow Olympian Keenan Horne takes over the captaincy, with Tuks star Bili Ntuli, a member of the national team since 2015, his deputy.

“There are a few changes, but we have the bulk of the Africa Cup squad that won the title last month,” Ewing said. “And we’re taking a 23-man squad to Potchefstroom because we have quite a few games in a short space of time.

“Leave has been a big issue for some guys, but that’s the nature of the sport in this country. So we are going to experience some serious pressures, but it’s more about the experience of playing really hard matches than the results.

“We’re going to have to pay a lot more attention to defence and tap into the counter-attacking strength we used so well in the Tokyo Olympics.

“We need to be a lot more comfortable on the ball under pressure, and this tournament is an invaluable opportunity to get experience of that,” Ewing said.

Hosting U21 World Cup very important news for SA hockey 0

Posted on December 21, 2021 by Ken

In a very important development for South African hockey, the FIH Women’s Junior World Cup will be hosted by the North-West University in Potchefstroom from December 5-16.

But this is not just an historic landmark for South Africa but Africa as a whole, because it is the first hockey world cup at any level to played on the continent.

As hosts, South Africa’s U21 team gets to play in the tournament, joining 15 other countries in the biennial event that brings together sides from every continent.

Sheldon Rostron, the former head coach of the South African senior women’s side, is the chairman of the local organising committee in his capacity as the director of sport at North-West University.

“This is a very important honour for South African hockey,” Rostron said. “It will have several spinoffs like establishing that we can host more events like this in South Africa.

“We can build a foundation of trust with the FIH and hopefully they will see us as a prime destination for future events. The country is hungry for hockey and hopefully corporates will see this global event, identify it as being exciting and invest more in hockey.

“It also gives our South African hockey players more international exposure, which is always great, and because we are in as hosts, it means Zimbabwe will be a second African team in the competition, which is also a first,” Rostron said.

North-West University is known for its world-class sporting facilities and leading teams and athletes from all over the world have held camps in Potchefstroom. Rostron said they are well-equipped to host such an important event.

“The good thing about Potchefstroom for sportspeople is that you are in close proximity to all the resources you need. It has always been the focus of the university to assist athletes and federations, and they come from across the world to come train here.

“With our high-performance institute and local businesses all being accustomed to events like this, it’s really easy to host tournaments in Potchefstroom,” Rostron said.

It is going to be tough though for the South African team to make it through to the quarterfinals from their pool: Germany, Spain and the United States are their opponents and all of them are women’s hockey powerhouses.

Australia and New Zealand were not able to play due to Covid travel restrictions in their countries.

Pools

Pool A – Ireland, Korea, Netherlands, Zimbabwe.

Pool B – Belgium, Canada, England, Uruguay.

Pool C – Argentina, India, Japan, Russia.

Pool D – Germany, South Africa, Spain, United States.

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