It was a day for the underdogs as the Premier Hockey League reached the semifinal stage in Johannesburg today.

 

After a tournament of turnarounds, the teams that finished bottom of both the men’s and women’s logs in 2016 booked their places in the 2017 final, to be played at the Randburg Astro tomorrow. The Orange River Rafters will face the Private Property St Lucia Lakers for the women’s title and the ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons will take on the Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen for the men’s honours.

 

The Rafters barely made it into the semifinals. They had to pull off a remarkable bonus-point victory over the defending champions, the Tivoli Blyde River Bunters, in their last group game yesterday and then still relied on other results to go their way. But, taking on the same opponents in today’s semifinal, they once again produced an upset of note – rising from bottom place in 2016 to a guaranteed top-two spot and an unlikely shot at the title.

 

It was a tight first half, with the Bunters looking far better than they did during their 3-0 loss to the Rafters yesterday, and the scoreboard remained untouched by half time. It was then Donna Small who found the back of the net early in the third quarter to give the Rafters the lead, and it’s one they never relinquished. Captain Sulette Damons slotted in a second early in the fourth quarter to seal the 2-0 win – and take her to the top of the tournament’s goal-scorers list.

 

While the Bunters brought on a kicking back with seven and a half minutes to go, it was no avail as the defending champions could not find the elusive goal they sought.

 

“We said that the hardest thing to do is to beat a team twice and after we beat them yesterday we knew it was going to be tough because they’d come out firing,” said Small afterwards. “We believed that we could do it. We’re just lucky that we stuck together, stuck to the structure, and we pulled it off so we’re really stoked about that.”

 

Describing her goal, the striker added: “Oh my goodness – I think my eyes were closed the entire time. I just saw the ball coming across and put my stick out there and I was just lucky to get it I think. It was really important though. To score the first goal gave us confidence. But anyone could have scored it. I was just in the right place at the right time.”

 

Speaking about taking on the St Lucia Lakers in tomorrow’s final, Small said: “We lost to them in our first game. But I think we’ve learnt a lot throughout the whole process of PHL – and they have too so I think it’ll be completely different teams. Same people but better structures, so we’re excited to play them and hopefully pull out a win there too.”

 

The Lakers booked their spot in the final with a 2-0 win over the Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies in their semi, thanks to goals from Kara Botes and Tiffany Jones.

 

“It’s a great feeling. We really worked so hard and I’m just so proud we’re into the final,” said 17-year-old Bianca Wood afterwards. “I think we just came out with a lot more energy and we knew we had to win and wanted it more. We really showed our potential and used our chances.”

 

Meanwhile, in the men’s competition the Dragons continued their rapid rise from being last year’s wooden spoon recipients with an impressive 5-2 win over the Mapungubwe Mambas in their semifinal. The Dragons went 4-0 up before the Mambas could register a goal, and with that cushion already safely in place by half time, they were never really troubled.

 

Coach Sihle Ntuli said afterwards he was not surprised by the massive win.

 

“For us internally in the group – this is really what we believe we deserve. Last year hurt coming sixth. Like I’ve said before, when we look at all our games, even last year, our stats were always in our favour but we haven’t been able to convert our chances so for this to happen today in the way that it has – we hope that we can continue that into tomorrow and finish off what’s been a good three weeks for us.”

 

Speaking about taking on the Cavemen in the final, Ntuli added: “The Cavemen are defending champions obviously. They’ve got a lot of experience. I know some of the more experienced guys have picked up a couple of niggles but I’m sure they’ll get onto the park tomorrow and add value. If you look across the field, they’ve got senior players in all the different lines so they’re a very well-balanced team and as we all know, a big threat on short corners so it’ll be a difficult game.”

 

The Cavemen continued their march to defending their title by handing the Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants a humiliating 6-1 defeat, in a repeat of last year’s final. A hat-trick from Lance Louw did much of the damage with Cerezo Comerasamym, Hendy Seerane and Michael Abrahams scoring the other goals for the 2016 champions.

 

 RESULTS

11 December 2017

 Private Property St Lucia Lakers 2-0 Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies

ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons 5-2 Mapungubwe Mambas

Orange River Rafters 2-0 Tivoli Blyde River Bunters

Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen 6-1 Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants

 

 

FIXTURES

12 December 2017

1pm: Woen’s bronze playoff: Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies v Tivoli Blyde River Bunters

3pm: Men’s bronze playoff: Mapungubwe Mambas vKilimanjaro Addo Elephants

5pm: Women’s final: Private Property St Lucia Lakers v Orange River Rafters

7.30pm: Men’s final: ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons v Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen

 

Photos by Marcel Sigg

 

Photos by Marcel Sigg 

 

The Tivoli Blyde River Bunters suffered their first defeat of the Premier Hockey League in Johannesburg today. And it came at the unlikely hands of last year’s women’s wooden spoon recipients – the Orange River Rafters.

 

But apart from slightly denting their confidence, it did nothing to affect the outcome of the Bunters’ progress to the playoff stages of the competition, nor their position at the top of the log.

 

It was yet another remarkable result for the Rafters, defeating the defending women’s champions 3-0 to earn themselves an all-important bonus point, which was necessary for a place in tomorrow’s semifinals. They also had to rely on the Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies beating the TopT Madikwe Rangers later in the afternoon to go through.

 

That match went straight to a shootout after a thunderstorm played havoc with the afternoon’s fixtures. And the Daisies duly played their part, winning the shootout 3-1 of knock the 2016 runners-up out of the tournament.

 

Earlier, goals from Sulette Damons, Jackie Scheepers and Chane Hartel were what did it for the Rafters, who have had an up-and-down tournament so far, but have managed to win when it counted.

 

Speaking about inflicting a first defeat on the Bunters, Damons said: “It feels great and gives us a lot of confidence going into the semis. Everyone just played freely and did what they needed to do and that’s in the end what gave us the victory. We kept fighting and moved the ball more and everyone just kept believing.”

 

A visibly upset Bunters (and SA national) captain, Nicolene Terblanche, said: “We didn’t play well today so we didn’t deserve the win. Credit to the Rafters – they definitely deserved it.”

 

The Bunters will face the Rafters once again, in tomorrow’s semifinal.

 

Meanwhile, the men’s defending champions, the Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen head into the semis in scorching form. They will take on the Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants in their semifinal in a repeat of last year’s gold-medal match.

 

The Cavemen’s only loss of the tournament was in a rain-affected match against the Garden Route Gazelles on the opening weekend that went straight to a shootout. But today, they produced a characteristically impressive performance to beat the Mapungubwe Mambas 2-0, with goals coming from Chad Futcher, off a penalty corner in the sixth minute, and Cerezo Comerasamy just before the end of the third quarter.

 

With both teams already through to the semis before the match started, the only factor riding on the result was which one would finish top of the men’s log.

 

“It was hugely important to top the group and go into the semis with some confidence,” said Cavemen coach Mark Sanders afterwards. “There are no easy games in the next round but the team coming in fourth is under a bit more pressure than the team finishing second or third so we’re happy to fight from the top of the log.

 

“I think the Elephants are a side coming into form but so are we, so I think it’ll be tough. I think the extra day’s rest they’ve had will put them in some good areas. There’s still a load of things for us to work on like being clinical in the circle. We’re creating a lot of opportunities but not taking as many as we’d like. Defensively we’ve still got to manage certain pressure areas and I think we’ll be better.”

 

The ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons finished in third spot on the log after the Garden Route Gazelles beat them 4-2 in another straight-to-shootout match because of the thunderstorm. The Dragons will play the Mambas in Monday’s other men’s semifinal. The struggling Gazelles went into the match needing an unlikely 11-goal winning margin if they were to make it to the semis.

 

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s other women’s semifinal will be contested between the Daisies and the Private Property St Lucia Lakers. The Lakers found themselves two goals down against the Wineland Wings after Tarryn Glasby and Liné Malan found the back of the net. But goals from Erin Hunter and Tiffany Jones levelled the scores at 2-2 and the Lakers eventually won the resulting shootout 2-1.

“We definitely started off slowly and we kept trying to encourage each other to light that fire that we know we have,” said Lakers captain and player of the match Shelley Jones. “It took a little while – I don’t think our gas burners were quite turned on yet. We eventually switched them on in the second half, which we’re kind of known for. We seem to score most of our goals in the third and fourth quarters so we knew if we just persisted with what we were doing, we’d hopefully come back and that’s what we did, which was great”

 

 

 

 

Results

10 December 2017:

 

Private Property St Lucia Lakers 2-2 (2-1 shootout) Wineland Wings

Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen 2-0 Mapungubwe Mambas

Tivoli Blyde River Bunters 3-0 Orange River Rafters

Garden Route Gazelles 4-2 (shootout) ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons

Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies 3-1 (shootout) TopT Madikwe Rangers

 

 

Fixtures

11 December 2017:

 

12pm: Private Property St Lucia Lakers v Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies

2pm: Mapungubwe Mambas v ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons

4pm: Tivoli Blyde River Bunters v Orange River Rafters

6pm: Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen v Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants

 

 

Final log standings

Men:

  1. Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen
  2. Mapungubwe Mambas
  3. ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons
  4. Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants
  5. Garden Route Gazelles
  6. Old Mutual iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators

 

 

Women:

  1. Tivoli Blyde River Bunters
  2. Private Property St Lucia Lakers
  3. Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies
  4. Orange River Rafters
  5. TopT Madikwe Rangers
  6. Wineland Wings

 

Photos by Marcel Sigg

 

The Cavemen, Dragons, Mambas and Bunters have all secured their spots in the semifinals of the Premier Hockey League. But it was the TopT Madikwe Rangers who were breathing some of the biggest sighs of relief after securing a crucial win over the Private Property St Lucia Lakers to keep their playoff hopes alive.

 

It certainly wasn’t a convincing victory – a 1-1 scoreline at the end of full time taking it to a shootout which they won 3-1 – but that didn’t bother coach Tsoanelo Pholo, whose team were simply after the three points.

 

“It was never going to be pretty, but we’re not here for pretty. We’re here for results,” said the relieved coach after the match.

 

“We had to score the one to equalise but there was no doubt in my mind that we were going to score today. And I think we have the best goalkeeper [Anelle van Deventer] at shootouts in the tournament. That’s one little trick we have in our arsenal. We don’t really want to use it all the time though, but three points is what we came here for and three points is what we got.”

 

The Rangers’ only other win of the PHL so far has also come from a shootout, and this time they had to do it without the services of the hugely experienced national player, Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, who has been ruled out of the tournament with a back injury.

 

“Those are huge shoes to fill but I think Kerry Pearton, who came through late last night as a replacement did a really good job. I’m really happy with how we could pull off what we needed to do,” added the coach.

 

There was also relief for the Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants. The 2016 runners-up have been struggling this year but managed to beat the Garden Route Gazelles 4-0 in their final group game to preserve their hopes of reaching the playoffs. Their progress will all depend on whether the Gazelles can pull off a colossal, bonus-point win against the Dragons on Sunday.

 

Meanwhile, former SA captain Austin Smith was starting to think he may be an unlucky charm for his ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons team. But that was all put right after his side handed the Mapungubwe Mambas their first defeat of the tournament. The Dragons’ 2-1 win also booked last year’s men’s wooden spoon winners an all-important semifinal spot with one match in hand.

 

“It’s great. I was a little bit worried because the guys did so well without me on the first weekend, getting two wins and then we lost last weekend. I was starting to worry that I was the common denominator but we did well today. It was tough but it’s really great to start the weekend off well.”

 

Smith scored from a penalty corner in the sixth minute to take the Dragons 1-0 up, but early in the second half Ross Gozalves found the equaliser for the Mambas, who were playing without ace goalkeeper Richard Curtis, Jarryd Jones and Rusten Abrahams, who have all been called up to the SA indoor hockey team. It was then Gareth Heynes who slotted in the winner for the Dragons, who have also lost SA player Jethro Eustice to the national indoor team.

 

“I thought our structure was better than theirs today,” explained Smith. “We created more circle opportunities than they did. We haven’t scored a field goal in the last two games so maybe that’s an area we can work on, but as long as we’re scoring and winning, we don’t really mind how it goes in.”

 

Later in the day, the Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen displayed their dominance once again in an impressive 6-2, bonus-point victory over the Old Mutual iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators, who have now been ruled out of the playoffs after only managing one win so far and no more games to play.

Interestingly, the tournament’s top two goalscorers so far, Courtney Halle on five and Connor Beauchamp on four, are both from the Gladiators team, but they’ll play no further part in the 2017 PHL.

 

Eventual man of the match, Miguel da Graca, managed to hit the goalposts on four occasions before finally slotting one in to add to his team’s total and said afterwards: “I hit four on the bar and the fifth one finally went through the keeper’s legs. I thought if I go straight it’ll miss the posts so it was good to finally get one.”

 

The Cavemen were without their top scorer, Ricky West, who was nursing an injury, as well as captain and goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse, but still managed to dominate throughout the game and the result means the defending champions are now top of the log.

 

“It was a good win for the guys and it was one of those games where we needed the three points to make sure we secured the semifinal. That job was done today while resting some of our big guns. They’ve had a few injuries so they were rested today but they’ll be good to go from tomorrow,” explained Da Graca.

 

Later in the day, in a bottom-of-the-log battle between the Wineland Wings and the Orange River Rafters, it was the Wings who managed to secure their first win of the tournament with a 3-2 victory.

 

Results:

9 December 2017

 

ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons 2-1 Mapungubwe Mambas

TopT Madikwe Ranger 1-1 (3-1 SO) Private Property St Lucia Lakers

Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen 6-2 Old Mutual iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators

Wineland Wings 3-2 Orange River Rafters

Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants 4-0 Garden Route Gazelles

 

 

Fixtures:

10 December 2017

 

8am: Private Property St Lucia Lakers v Wineland Wings

10am: Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen v Mapungubwe Mambas

12pm: Orange River Rafters v Tivoli Blyde River Bunters

2pm: ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons v Garden Route Gazelles

4pm: Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies v TopT Madikwe Rangers

Photo by Marcel Sigg 

There’s an intriguing weekend of action ahead as the Premier Hockey League heads into the final round of games before the playoffs. And one man who will be watching the log very carefully will be coach of the SA men’s under-21 side, playing as the Old Mutual iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators, Garreth Ewing.

 

His side pulled off the most dramatic comeback of the tournament so far last Sunday when they came back from 0-3 down to beat the Garden Route Gazelles 6-3. The Gladiators are currently fourth on the log, and as it stands, that would mean a semifinal spot, but with only one game to play this coming weekend, anything could happen.

 

“I think that a lot is going to happen before the semifinalists are decided,” reckoned Ewing. “We only have one game to play this weekend, which might count against us. All the results will have an impact on the table for all the teams. It’s going to change game by game and possibly one or two results might work in our favour. Who knows what pressure will do?”

 

The Gladiators face the tough task of taking on the defending champions, the Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen, in their final game, but confidence is high after last weekend’s performance. “Our team focus won’t change, beyond improving on last weekend’s performances and trusting in our process against a very strong Cavemen team,” explained the coach. 

 

“I think we can definitely beat them, but I’m extremely respectful of their experience and balance. It will be a tough game but a very good opportunity for the young Gladiators to continue to learn about playing in pressure situations.”


Speaking about the Cavemen, who are currently second on the log after a rained-out match went straight to a shootout, which they lost to the Gazelles, Ewing added: “It was no surprise to me when they won the tournament last year. They have key players right up the middle of the field and they have a strong offensive and defensive PC. I think they have a handle on their defensive game which will make them hard to break down.” 

 

The young Gladiators will surely believe that anything is possible after last Sunday though. Describing what changed in his team to be able to turn around the deficit, Ewing explained: “3-0 wasn’t a comfortable place for us. We shared a few stern words at half-time, but we focused on playing to the shape we had agreed upon before the game, and making sure that we stopped leaking goals due to errors. 

 

“The biggest shift the players made was committing to passing the ball instead of becoming individuals when under pressure. This really raised our tempo and then things started to flow. It was also, I think, an indication of the team’s character and the pride they have in their performance that they found an extra gear. I was thrilled at the way they responded and they played some beautiful hockey at times.

 

“Our whole process, with there being a longer-term goal of being successful at the Junior World Cup in 2019, has been about performing and growing rather than getting results. In terms of team growth there is a lot to feel encouraged about, but we need to ask how we got ourselves to 3-0 down in the first place.

 

“The key for us is to now believe that we can compete against older players with more experience, and to make sure we start games better. The team is very upbeat after the game, however, and it will help our confidence a great deal going into the last weekend.”

 

Fixtures:

Saturday, 9 December

8am: ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons v Mapungubwe Mambas

10am: Private Property St Lucia Lakers v TopT Madikwe Rangers

12pm: Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen v Old Mutual iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators

2pm: Wineland Wings v Orange River Rafters

4pm: Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants v Garden Route Gazelles

 

Sunday, 10 December

8am: Private Property St Lucia Lakers v Wineland Wings

10am: Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen v Mapungubwe Mambas

12pm: Orange River Rafters v Tivoli Blyde River Bunters

2pm: ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons v Garden Route Gazelles

4pm: Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies v TopT Madikwe Rangers

 

Photo by Marcel Sigg

 

He may have been on the other side of the field, but goalkeeper and captain of the Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen, Rassie Pieterse thoroughly enjoyed the unique goal celebration at the opposite end.

 

With just a matter of seconds on the clock, Thabang Modise had just slotted in the third goal for the defending champions to seal a 3-0, bonus point victory over the ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons at the Premier Hockey League in Johannesburg on Sunday.

 

What followed was an intricate, hand-waving performance that certainly had the crowd entertained.

 

“The stick becomes the fire because we’re Cavemen and we’re heating ourselves up by the fire,” explained Modise with a smile. “I’ve got new ones coming for you – but I can’t tell you what they are – it’s a surprise,” he added.

 

“We only see the fist pump of Ricky West these days so it was nice to see some of the others scoring goals and getting the celebrations going,” joked Pieterse. “It’s awesome to see that energy coming through there.” There was certainly plenty of energy on the field as West and Chad Futcher scored the other two goals and the Cavemen then threw everything into their defence to keep the Dragons out.

 

“I haven’t seen the stats yet but I’m sure they had a lot of circle and 25 entries so it was a huge defensive effort from us to stop a team like this,” said Pieterse.

“My decision-making is so much easier when the guys are marking tightly at the back and I think a lot of balls were played straight at me so I got a little bit lucky today but of course, any goal keeper will enjoy a clean sheet so I’ll take that with me and use it as a bit of confidence for next weekend.”

 

Another keeper who enjoyed a clean sheet was the Mapungubwe Mambas’ Richard Curtis, who has only allowed one goal past him in the entire tournament. He was once again in top form as his team defeated the Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants 1-0 to add to the 2016 runners-up’s woes.

 

“The team is playing really well, defending with 11. That’s the mindset we had – we’re not going to try and score goals, we’re going to defend as much as we want to score, and build on that platform.

 

“It’s a massive result for us going forward in the competition. I think we’re on 11 points from three games so we’re looking forward to next week,” added Curtis, whose side are currently top of the log and face both the Cavemen and Dragons next weekend.

 

Meanwhile, the iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies pulled off their second last-gasp win of the tournament by beating the Wineland Wings 2-1. After an extremely tight game, the teams were still locked at 0-0 heading into the fourth quarter. The Daisies were first to score, thanks to Charne Maddocks but the Wings, having brought on a kicking back, came back at them just two minutes from time. Then, with 10 seconds left on the clock, the under 21s earned a penalty corner, which Steph Botha duly converted for the win.

 

“We didn’t expect to come back, we got the goal and I was celebrating like mad. My heart rate was quite high,” admitted Botha afterwards. “It was quite tough – they kept on coming and coming but we were like a brick wall and didn’t let them through. Unlucky that they eventually got their goal but then we stepped up and scored one back.”

 

Coach Robin van Ginkel added: “It was always going to be a tight one. For both teams it was a really important one to win to try to secure a semifinal so I think there was a lot riding on it. It was always going to be competitive – maybe not that nail-biting – but always competitive.

 

“As a young group I think they’re really listening to the game plan and executing it, which is keeping us in the game, and well done to the defence today. They’re a young group and learning quickly. There’s lots of talent, maybe not as much experience yet but the talent and their desire to win definitely makes up for a lot,” added Van Ginkel, whose team now head into a national under-21 team training camp ahead of next weekend’s matches.

 

Later in the day, in a repeat of last year’s women’s final, the defending champions, the Tivoli Blyde River Bunter continued their dominance, beating the TopT Madikwe Rangers 1-0. Celia Evans, back in the team after missing out last weekend through illness, was the goal-scorer for the Bunters in the 50th minute.

The iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators, meanwhile, produced a remarkable run of six unanswered goals to come back from a 0-3 deficit and claim their first win of the tournament – a 6-3, bonus point victory over the now bottom-of-the-log Garden Route Gazelles.

 

PHL action continues at the Randburg Astro next weekend, before the teams head into the playoffs on 11-12 December.

 

 

Results

3 December 2017

 

Mapungubwe Mambas 1-0 Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants

iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies 2-1 Wineland Wings

Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen 3-0 ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons

Tivoli Blyde River Bunters 1-0 TopT Madikwe Rangers

iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators 6-3 Garden Route Gazelles

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