Hockey player to watch

2014-05-17 00:00

ONE of the South Africa men’s hockey team players to watch at Hockey World Cup 2014 in the Hague, Holland, now just a fortnight away, is young University of Stellenbosch student Dylan Swanepoel.

Ask current South Africa women’s hockey team assistant coach Kurt Cerfontyne, who coached the Maties student for two years.

“He is a technically gifted player and a fierce competitor who leaves nothing out there on the pitch. Dylan’s commitment is second to none, which is evident in his work ethic during training and matches,” she said. “He is a natural leader, which accounts for his organisational ability in central defence. He is extremely composed under pressure and adds massive value by possessing the ability to break the gainline from a defensive position and I have no doubt that Dylan will develop into a world-class player.”

For Swanepoel, news of his selection was welcomed. “I was relaxing with my girlfriend [Isabel] when I received an e-mail from SA head coach Fabian Gregory telling me I was included in the team,” he recalled.

The Paul Roos product’s mission is simple. “I want to leave the World Cup saying I contributed in every game and training session. I do not want to be a young player just going for the experience. I aim to make a big contribution to the team.”

The Johannesburg-born Swanepoel is not allowing the fact that SA, due to funding constraints, will have spent less time together than any other side, get him down.

“If my facts are correct we have [a number of] players who were at the last World Cup, so we have experience mixed with some exciting new players. The team are well balanced, with matchwinners who will see us exceed expectations.”

The BCom management science student, now just three years out of school is, along with his team-mates in various cities, currently on a conditioning programme “that we all have to be doing until we get to camp”.

Coaches have played a big role in Swanepoel’s development.

“As well as my being extremely self-motivated, my coaches have had a massive influence,” he said.

“I have taken a lot out of the advice and work I have done with coaches Neville Rothman [Paul Roos and now at Maties], Kurt Cerfontyne and [SA U21 Junior World Cup mentor] Darryn Gallagher. Recently I have found working with Fabian a breath of fresh air and he has made me extremely excited about the times to come that I will hopefully be a part of.”

With 16 Tests under his belt since his debut at the Africa Cup in Nairobi, Kenya, late last year, Swanepoel has fulfilled one dream. “I am still extremely excited and grateful. It had been a goal of mine to make this team, even though it seemed so far away at the time I set my mind to achieving it.”

The hunger is palpable, despite the sport’s amateur status, which cripples so many promising careers due to the demands of needing to earn an income — most employers are not happy with long months away from work, but there is some money to be had for elite players. “I want to play in Europe once my studies are complete, so I would like to be playing professionally in Europe while representing South Africa.”

The SA team gather for two days in Johannesburg from May 18 before leaving for 10 days’ intensive training in Holland on May 20.

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