Ismailia in Egypt. South African Men’s Hockey had faced a testing road to get the African Cup of Nations tournament, with many players unavailable for various reasons. This on the back of an incredibly underwhelming FIH World League tournament that we hosted. It was on the back of losing to Egypt at home in a World League match for the second time in a few years. It was on the back of a coach leaving and an interim coach being appointed. It was on the back of the AFCON being moved from South Africa to Egypt, of the dates being moved and of African Hockey doing their normal thing.
South Africa at the tournament were underwhelming as well as Ghana almost caused the biggest shock in African Hockey history before narrowly losing 3-2 to the Lads. There was also a 3-3 draw with Egypt in the group stages setting up the classic African final, with maybe a little less confidence. The SA Hockey Men were in desperate need of a hero and it really should not be a surprise who that hero was.
After Taine Paton, another player who maybe doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves, fired South Africa level the game looked like it was simmering out to a draw and the dreaded showdowns would come into play. But in the 58th minute, South Africa was awarded a penalty corner. Now had Justin Reid-Ross, Austin Smith or Matt Guise-Brown been there its a relatively safe guess that the PC would not have gone to Jethro, but they weren’t and it did. Having seen the Egyptian keeper stop everything high in the game (and in Johannesburg), Eustice fired in the perfect height flick that sent South African fans into a frenzy. Jethro Eustice had scored the goal that secured our place in the FIH Hockey World Cup.
Jethro has now played 90 games for South Africa, the first was in a 9-0 win against Brazil in Rio in 2013. He has played in a Hockey World Cup and Commonwealth Games, but obviously was unfortunate not to go back to Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games, something I know he will be keen to rectify in the past. He has also played in the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup in 2015 and will be keen to have another go at it in 2018.
Jethro has been performing at the top of his game for quite a while now, as he is the reigning Indoor and Outdoor IPT Player of the Tournament helping guide KZN Raiders to both the indoor and outdoor titles. He is even jokingly referred to as Mr. Hockey by his teammates, we don’t really think they are joking though. When he was breaking into the squad the likes of Justin Reid-Ross, Rhett Halkett, Lloyd Madsen, Lloyd Norris-Jones, Austin Smith were arguably the first names on the team sheet. I think it goes a little more like this now:
SA Hockey team sheet
- Jethro Eustice