KZN Inland hockey men can win IPT

2010-08-21 00:00

IF one looks at the KZN Inland squad, the inescapable conclusion is that they are serious contenders for the title at the SA Men’s Interprovincial Hockey Tournament, which gets under way in Port Elizabeth on Monday.

Experienced internationals Darryn Gallagher, along with fellow Beijing Olympians­ Tommy Hammond and Geoff Abbott, are key actors in this six-day passion play. Gallagher, Hammond and Abbott also represented South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne four years ago, while the latter duo cut their teeth at the 2006 World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany.

This core, allied with the vigour of youthful team-mates, is critical in the cut-throat nature of IPT pool competition, where one slip can mean the difference between reaching the final or playing for fifth, as happened to Inland at an epic IPT on the AB Jackson GreenFields Turf in Pietermaritzburg last year.

Nine players are back from the 2007 East London IPT side that came within a 50-50 call of winning the title for the first time in Inland hockey history, going down 2-1 in a final against Western Province. And 13 are back from last year, when an unlucky Inland finished fifth in an IPT won by KZN Coastal Raiders.

Another trump card is coach Charles Pereira, the former SA midfielder who initially made his name with South West Africa (now Namibia) and on coming to South Africa starred for Northerns and then Southern Gauteng before settling in the midlands. Manager Reggie Smith, too, knows the players inside out and his knowledge will be invaluable.

PMB Collegians lost 11-0 to PMB Varsity­ at the AB Jackson GreenFields Turf for the students to wrap up the KZN Super League title with two games in hand — a tremendous achievement for player-coach Gallagher and the team.

Ace drag-flicker Karl Oftebro bagged six and Inland forwards Craig Haley (2), Duzo Khanyile (2) and the classy, yet hugely underrated, Gavin Jelley also got in some pre-IPT target practice.

Inland’s great strength (or is it weakness in the broader sense?) is that the side plays together in its entirety at club level — whatever the merits of non-students who are playing for a Varsity team and keeping genuine students out of the side may be.

Inland B, under former SA captain and coach Brian Edwards and well-known manager Harry Suckert, are essentially going to IPT to learn.

The young side made up of a core of PMB Collegians players are unlikely to be B Section-trophy contenders, but if they keep their focus — the onus in that department rests with former Inland A striker Murray Turner and the likes of Richard Snowden and Mario Campbell — they are capable of upsetting fancied sides.

The SA Country Districts’ side has PMB-based players in vice-captain Keith Stainbank and Gary Carson. The latter gives much to the sport, not only as a quality goalkeeper and umpire, but also presiding over the KZN Inland Hockey Association and playing a major role in SACD hockey as vice-president.

TEAMS

KZN Inland A: Rohn Barron, Andrew Watson, Justin Domleo, Karl Oftebro, Jethro Eustice, Travis Hardnick, Matthew Redmead, Tommy Hammond, Darryn Gallagher, Matt Coombes, Robin Jones, Dalan Phillips, Duzo Khanyile, Gavin Jelley, Geoff Abbott, Craig Haley. Coach: Charlie Pereira. Manager: Reggie Smith.

KZN Inland B: Ian Griffiths, Edric Pascoe, Mario Campbell, Grant Christie, Richard Snowden, Devon Wendover, Brett Campbell, Musa Ngonie, Michael Craig, Sam Biggs, Gift Buys, Murray Turner, Kieran Nero, James Murray, Fergus Snow. Coach: Brian Edwards. Manager: Harry Suckert.

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