Ready for Zambia

2014-02-04 00:00

FOUR Pietermaritzburg pupils will jet off to Zambia next month as the SA U17 boys and girls hockey teams try to qualify for the Youth Olympics in China later this year.

Defender Natalie Esteves from St John’s DSG and Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School’s Buhle Zondi, who is the goalkeeper, were named in the girls’ squad, while Maritzburg College duo Tyson Dlungwana and Tevin Kok are in the boys’ team.

Natalie, who told The Witness in an interview last year that her short-term goal was to make the U17 side, said she couldn’t believe the news when she heard she had been selected.

“I heard about two weeks ago,” she said last week.

“I was at school when I got the e-mail. I couldn’t believe it and I asked someone else to read it for me just to make sure it was real,” said Natalie.

From March 10 to 15, the teams will play a tournament against other African countries with the winner qualifying for the Youth Olympics in Nanjing in August.

“South Africa have always fared well in Africa, so we have a good chance of qualifying,” she said.

For Buhle, her selection into the squad came as a surprise as she felt she had let Christmas affect her fitness levels.

“It was quite unexpected. We had a training camp in January, and I wasn’t as fit as I would have liked. But, I knew from the beginning that this was what I wanted,” she said.

She put down her achievement on her coach Taryn de Winnar, who she said believed in her more than she did.

“She has been my motivation,” said Buhle.

Like Natalie, she too was at school when she found out she had made the team.

“Miss Div called me into her office and told me she had bad news and good news. I asked her to start with the bad news, and she told me I wasn’t going to be able to play in a pre-season tournament for the school. That’s when I knew that I’d made the SA side,” she said.

From College, Tyson, who is also a member of Maritzburg United’s Colts Team, was humbled by the selection.

“I’m looking forward to the trip to Zambia. It’s going to be an experience we’ll never forget.”

But, Tyson didn’t know what to expect. “I haven’t been told anything other than that Namibia have been training in camp since December. But, we’ll go there with the intention of bagging a spot for the Olympics.”

Just how did the Grade 11 pupil cope with the rigours of playing hockey and soccer at a high level?

“I’ve been asked how I do it, but I wouldn’t be able to tell you because I don’t know myself,” said the youngster, who had to quit his blossoming cricketing career when he made the United Colts side.

“Not wanting to sound arrogant, it’s quite tough when you’re good at more than one sport. Sooner or later, I’ll have to stop playing soccer to fully focus on hockey,” said the centre-half.

His team-mate and friend Tevin also played soccer, but hockey, a game he has played since he was six years old, was his first love.

“I got my first hockey stick at six, and I started playing then, and it’s always been a great game,” Tevin said, adding that his dream was to one day play for the national senior side.

Tevin was also looking forward to representing the country alongside his friend. “It’s going to be great. We click on the field because we both know how the other plays.”

The Youth Olympics will take place in Nanjing, China from August 16 to 28.

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