Young SA hockey team to face Austria

2014-12-30 00:00

A YOUNG, untried combination that includes 15 uncapped players will ­represent the South Africa men’s hockey team in a four-Test series against Austria at Queensmead in Durban from January 5 to 9. Although the Europeans are ranked 23rd in the world to SA’s 12th, that stat has no meaning in this context.

SA head coach Fabian Gregory, who is director of hockey at ­Glenwood High in Durban in his day job, and the panel of selectors have deliberately chosen a bunch of ­inexperienced youngsters to tackle the Austrians as there is a bigger ­picture down the line.

The national team face a testing year. The World League Round 2 (WLR2) competition takes place in Cape Town from March 7 to 15 and with it goes precious world ranking points as well as the opportunity to advance to the World League semi-finals in June/July.

And perhaps of even greater importance is the 10th Africa Cup of Nations event in Ismailia, Egypt, from October 17 to 25. The hosts are sure to offer their arch continental rivals fierce competition in the race for a spot at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Some of the selection decisions for the Austria series were also ­influenced by the participation of top SA players such as national captain Austin Smith in the lucrative Hockey India League (HIL), which starts on January 22.

From January 19 to 28, the SA men will play world number two Holland in a one-off Test match in Cape Town before facing world number 15 Ireland in two Tests in the Mother City.

Gregory said a new team will be picked for the Cape Town matches.

Apart from giving their all for the green and gold against Austria, the possibility of making the cut for the matches against Holland and Ireland will be a massive incentive for the players in Durban. This will give them another opportunity to make a claim for a berth in the team who will play in WLR2.

For the inexperienced South ­Africans, the Austrians could be tough to beat. Raised in the unforgiving environment of European hockey, where there are so many outstanding national teams, it is also a big year for Austria.

Their WLR2 tournament is in San Diego, California from February 28 to March while in July the Austrians will be going all out to succeed in the Euro Hockey Nations second tier ­championship in Prague, Czech ­Republic, so they mean business.

With nine current KZN-based players in the 24-man SA team who will face Austria, the 18 players picked for each Test will be packed with hometown favourites for local fans to cheer on.


Goalkeepers: Richard Curtis, Gowan Jones (both KZN Coastal Raiders), Chad Durrheim (Eastern Province), Jason Briggs (Southern Gauteng).

Defenders: Mohammed Mea (KZN Coastal Raiders), Daniel Bell (Western Province), Leneal Jackson, Robin Jones (both KZN Inland), Matt Guise-Brown (Northern Blues), Gareth Heyns, Jethro Eustice (both Southern Gauteng).

Midfielders: Ross Hetem, Dan Sibbald (both KZN Coastal Raiders), Marc Fourie (WP), Taylor Dart (Southern Gauteng), Chad Cairncross (EP), Jonty Robinson (Northern Blues).

Strikers: Andrew Manson, Mondli Dlamini (both KZN Coastal Raiders), Richard Pautz (Northern Blues), Keenan Horne (WP), Brandon Panther (Southern Gauteng), Dalan Phillips, Damian Kimfley (both EP).


(At Queensmead): Mon, Jan 5 (6 pm); Tues, Jan 6 (6 pm); Thurs, Jan 8 (6 pm); Fri, Jan 9 (2 pm).

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