Winning the turf war

2014-08-08 00:00

NOT too long ago Westville hockey was lagging behind their other sports codes’ success but this year the change in fortunes has been most impressive, and Westville currently are the number one-ranked boys’ high school at first team level in South Africa.

Going into tomorrow’s matches Westville are less than a point ahead of Maritzburg College in the only ranking system in the country, the website.

Their fixtures ended at the end of the second term while College play into the third term.

College, under the direction of former SA Junior World Cup player Devon van der Merwe, meet fourth-ranked Glenwood, under the tutelage of SA men’s head coach Fabian Gregory, at College’s Pape’s Astro on Saturday morning and should College win they go top.

Be that as it may, it doesn’t detract from Westville’s remarkable improvement and much of this has to do with director of sport and first team coach Sharmin Naidoo.

“The Westville Astro is shared by the three schools, Westville Boys, Westville Girls and Westville Senior Primary and it has probably been the biggest factor that has contributed to our recent hockey success,” Naidoo told The Witness.

“It is still very difficult because we all have to share the turf time but we are using the turf to its optimum.

“At times we have 70 players on the turf at one time. We have also managed to attract quality coaches into our programme.”

Naidoo says Westville’s feeder primary schools have played a vital role.

“We have also tried to instil a particular brand of hockey at Westville. We have worked hard to create a system that allows for progression from U14 to first team level.”

Westville play indoor hockey. “In fact Westville Boys have been instrumental in getting boys indoor hockey going in the KZN Coastal hockey province. Indoor is a big part of our skills development programme. Westville have made the final of the U18 league every year since the league started and won it three times.”

Apart from team success now at national level in outdoor hockey as well, the likes of Tristan Smith (KZN U18), Jacques Bleeker (Westville captain, KZN U18 captain and SA U18), Gareth Simmonds, Lwando Saunders (KZN U18) and Brandon Watkins (KZN U18) have all been recognised in their own right.

This has set a solid platform for further recognition once the really hard work begins for them at senior level if they wish to take their hockey further.

“We pride ourselves on developing homegrown talent and taking them to a level of high performance,” Naidoo added.

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