Making College proud

2015-01-14 00:00

THREE Maritzburg College Old Boys were in action last week for the South African hockey team against Austria in the four-match series held in Durban.

Marc Fourie and Andrew Manson made their debuts for the national side while Matthew Guise-Brown added a few more precious caps to his tally. ­Although Austria won the series 2-1, the series provided an opportunity to blood new players and gauge their talent ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, SA hockey team manager and Maritzburg College co-curricular deputy headmaster Graham Bennetts was thoroughly ­impressed with the old Collegians’ performances.

“I think they played really well. Marc and Andrew made their debuts and really stepped up to the plate. Matt has been on tour with the team before so it was great for him to get another opportunity,” Bennetts said.

The SA squad featured 15 uncapped players for the Test series in an effort to take stock of local talent playing in the country.

“At the moment, we essentially have eight or nine of our core players playing overseas and in the Hockey India League — which is very similar to the IPL cricket. We went with nine youngsters; Fabian Gregory [SA coach] is looking at our depth ahead of the Olympics.”

Bennetts expects Fourie (midfielder), Manson (striker) and Guise-Brown (defender/specialist drag-flicker) to feature in the national side in the future, but admits the sport is difficult in its current state.

“I have little doubt they will go far but it really depends on their careers and studies. Hockey isn’t professional here like rugby or cricket; the guys have to juggle their lives.”

Bennetts hopes to see them make the best of their talent.

“The three of them are intelligent guys and I expect them to see out their studies before they make a move overseas to play hockey. It’s difficult, but there are guys making professional hockey careers abroad.”

Over the years, College has produced many SA hockey representatives — something Bennetts puts down to good structures and facilities at the school.

“We have great depth of coaching throughout our age groups thanks to a number of experienced coaches,” Bennetts explained.

The school also set up a unified structure and head coach Devon van der Merwe has developed a programme that sets out non-negotiable skills that players must learn at different age-groups.

“By the time boys get to the 1st XI, they only need to hone those skills and polish up other areas of their game.”

Coupled with the only FIH-accredited Astroturf in the province (which could technically host Olympic matches), Bennetts believes College is creating an environment that will constantly develop quality hockey players.

The SA hockey side take on Holland and Ireland in a Test series in Cape Town from January 19 to 28.

Bennetts hopes to see the three College Old Boys back in the side, although their selection is not the only thing standing in the way of playing.

“There are also some financial implications; the guys had to pay to play last week. But I have no doubt they will play if they are available and chosen.”

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