Almost plain sailing for SA U21 hockey sides in Egypt

2008-07-13 00:00

THE South Africa U21 men’s and women’s hockey teams eased through the opening matches in the Junior World Cup Africa zone qualifier in Cairo over the weekend.

Both tournaments entail a round-robin phase in which the countries play each other once with the top two qualifying for the finals this Saturday.

So far, the women have beaten Egypt 5-0 and Zimbabwe 9-0 while the men smashed Libya 17-0.

However, it has not all been plain sailing for the South Africans.

Graham Bennetts, the SA U21 men’s manager, had to take Western Province striker Kyle Lottering to hospital with a fractured cheek after a freak incident.

“Kyle was hit by a hard shot from a team-mate,” Bennetts told The Witness. “Unfortunately Kyle looks like a boxer after a bad day at the office and we had to send him home for surgery.”

Bennetts said there were a number of frustrations that the team had to deal with.

“Buses have been late, and at the field, practices either don’t start on time or practice times have been changed at the last minute. Much to the annoyance of the staff, we lifted the hoses — they water the Astro with fire hoses — and moved them off ourselves as the time for the start of our scheduled practice had come and gone.

We also ended practice on our terms because of the late start. Standing our ground and smiling through adversity has become our policy.”

Bennetts is also fortunate that he had learned some Arabic during a two-year stint as a teacher in Abu Dhabi. “The vocabulary and so on … has pretty much returned and has proved invaluable,” he said.

“The Astro we are playing the Africa zone qualifiers on is very patchy. The turf has got lots of dodgy bits, so we are thankful for medical cover.”

Bennetts said the heat was almost overwhelming. “We have bought tons of liquids, so the players are coping, but they quickly realised after day one how much they need to take in.”

Bennetts said the Egyptian military was prominent in running the game, which had helped at times with airport formalities and similar potentially time-consuming administrative chores.

Off the field there has still been time for the SA U21 men and women to take in some of the tourist sites.

“We will be doing the pyramids and the museum and then a trip down the Nile on the rest days,” Bennetts said.

“The players know that it’s hockey first, though, with our men and women hoping to qualify as Africa’s representatives for the Junior World Cup finals — in Malaysia/Singapore and Boston in the U.S. respectively — so they have been very well behaved.”


SA U21 women: vs Egypt 5-0 (Sulette Damons 2, Chrizelle Andries, Heloise Labuschagne, Lorene Irvine); vs Zimbabwe 9-0.

SA U21 men: vs Libya 17-0 (Matt Fairweather 4, Tariq Ebrahim 4, Tim Drummond 3, Duzo Khanyile 2, Matt Botha, Taine Paton, Ant Vervoort, Dalan Philips); vs Sudan – result not available at time of going to press.

Remaining men’s matches: vs Ghana (today); vs Egypt (tomorrow); vs Kenya (Thursday); finals — (Saturday).

At the time of going to press there was no further information available on the forthcoming women’s programme.

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