The 2017 Premier Hockey League is upon us after its initial delay earlier this year. The major product in the SA Hockey Revolution captivated the attention of fans last year as with Supersport on board many local players were seen for the first time ever. The second tournament starts this Saturday and will see the teams battle to try and wrestle the title away from the Maropeng Cavemen.
With the SA Hockey Men’s side currently without a coach, this is also an opportunity for a few of the coaches to stick their hands up for that vacant spot. Without further babbling, let’s look at the Men’s tournament today with the ladies to follow later in the week. I have decided to put my head on the block by predicting where I think the teams will finish, this is not to throw shade at teams but rather to have an extra dynamic at play. Heck with how much PHL I wrote about and watched last year it might be a little more than just a guess…
Kilamanjaro Addo Elephants
The Addo Elephants somehow finished as runners-up last year after a pretty horrendous opening two weekends. They were inspired, however, in week three with two massive victories over the Golden Gate Gladiators and the Maropeng Caveman helped them sneak into the semi-finals (largely thanks to goals galore by Ignatius Malgraff). They then produced their performance of the tournament by knocking out the Gazelles in the Semi-Finals. They have a lethal strike force in Julian Hykes and Ignatius Malgraff, while Brett Walraven impressed us enough to make our team of the tournament last year. If Robin Jones is given the captaincy again he is one of the good men of SA Hockey and would be a great influence on the players in the team.
Sports 24 Seven Prediction – missing Semi-Finals
Pro Grip Drakensberg Dragons
Last year they were the wooden spoon finishers somehow. On paper, they have an outstanding team with the recruitment of Austin Smith as a marquee player immense. The former national skipper has won franchise based hockey before and his experience will be immense. They also can call on SA Superstar Jethro Eustice, outstanding keeper Gowan Jones and attacking sensations Bili Ntuli and Melrick Maddocks. The draft of Gareth Heynes is also a brilliant bit of business and in coach Sihle Ntuli I truly believe we have a future South African coach. I think they could very well be the favourites and in fact, we are going to install them as our favourites. No pressure.
Sports 24 Seven Prediction – Winner
Garden Route Gazelles
The team with the most exciting attacking line-up should probably have won the tournament in 2016. The fact that they add the sensational Ryan Julius to an attacking side that features South Africa’s best striker in Lloyd Norris-Jones, Pierre de Voux and Keenan Horne, will make them even more dangerous. Siya Nolutshungu is the future of South African goalkeeping and was in our team of the year last year. My biggest concern with this team in the past has been the defense and I still think they are lacking a little bit in this area, I hope they prove me wrong.
Sports 24 Seven Prediction – Runner-Up
Iwyze Golden Gate Gladiators
It’s always tough for a young side in a Men’s tournament in South Africa, but Garreth Ewing is doing an outstanding job in bringing the best out of his young charges. Many of their stars from 2016 now represent other Franchises, but they have a really special player in Dayaan Cassiem, while Tyson Dlungwana will be integral in the defense. Che February and Andrew Hobson are two other players that impress me regularly and once again I expect the Gladiators to ruffle a few feathers on route to the semi-finals.
Sports 24 Seven Prediction – Semi-Finalists
Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen
The defending champions have managed to keep the base of the team that lifted the trophy last year together. The Cavemen regularly called on experience and the likes of Ricky West, Tommy Hammond, Lance Louw and Rassie Pieterse will play a pivotal role in the quest to defend the title. Coach Mark Sanders also has a fantastic tournament record and will also look to show his credentials for the national role. Thabang Modise is their most exciting recruit for this year, but I also suspect that a lot of teams will be trying harder to get one over the champions.
Sports 24 Seven Prediction – Semi-Finalists
Coach Krinesan Moodley has put together a squad with some exciting talent and the likes of Jarryd Jones and Steven Paulo are great recruitments for a team looking to improve on last years fifth place finish. The loss of Brandon Panther, who is unavailable for PHL, is a massive one for me and there will be a lot of pressure on the more experienced players like Owen Mvimbi, Ross Hetem and Ross Goncalves to lead the team in the high-pressure situations. In Richard Curtis, they have one of the best goalkeepers in the country and that could be a fantastic base from which to build.
Sports 24 Seven Prediction – Missing Semi-finals