The weather was not the only thing playing tricks this past weekend in Johannesburg as the 12 Franchises took on the challenge of trying to qualify for the Premier Hockey League Semi-Finals. All 12 teams were still in with a chance of qualifying for the final four, but some had mountains to climb. Incredibly it took until the final day before the final four was announced with a weekend of frenetic hockey really supporting the status as the premier hockey tournament in South Africa. As I have done in week 1 and week 2 its now time to recap this weeks action.

Game of the Week (Women) – Madikwe Rangers 3 (3) – (0) 3 Wineland Wings

At this stage the Wineland Wings had not lost a game in normal time and they came up against the Madikwe Rangers, who similarly had not lost in normal time, in what would be an absolute classic. Neither side was particularly adventurous in the first half, but the Rangers opened the scoring with a minute to go when Sylvia van Jaarsveldt dived full-length to score an excellent deflection goal. Heather McEwan then set up two goals for the Wings as they snuck ahead 2-1 with eight minutes left in the match.Robyn Johnson rammed home after good work by McEwan and Natasha Rootenburg, and then Kaila Flemming fired a fine reverse-stick shot into the right corner after the Rangers defence had failed to clear the danger following a probing run by McEwan. But the Wings soon found a 2-1 lead turning into a 3-2 trailing when Louise de Jager from a shorty and Lisa Hawker from a field goal put the Rangers 3-2 ahead. Once again though the PHL faithful were rewarded when, with 15 seconds on the clock, Anche Nortje sent the Wings into jubilation. The game was great, the shootout not so much though as they Wings once again failed to win in a shootout and must surely hope that they can win in normal time in the Semi-Finals.

Game of the Week (Men) – Elephants 5-3 Caveman

The Elephants need to pick up two wins this weekend, with at least one bonus point and hope for other results to go their way. When it came to the final game of the group stage they knew they had to challenge arguably the best team in the tournament so far. Needing to beat the Caveman by 2 goals, they knew the challenge ahead of them. To make matters worse the weather was more suited for snorkeling than for hockey. But the Elephants show they loved to play in the mud. Sinoxolo Mbekeni put hope into the Elephants hearts after the water log break, before Ricky West, a player who should have more caps, fired in an equaliser. Julian Hykes, who has had an underwhelming PHL, and tournament top scorer Ignatius Malgraff made it 3-1. But as the pitch dried so increased the ruthlessness of Ricky West and with 10 minutes remaining the scores were level and the Elephants were out. Rusten Abrahams gave the Elephants the most cruel thing in sport, hope. But it seemed a bridge too far for the Addo boys as they were still a goal short. But cometh the hour cometh the man, and Richard Pautz popped up to seal a semi-final berth with just 39 seconds. The best was saved for last!

Team of the Week (Women) – St. Lucia Lakers

With so much of the talk around the Madikwe Rangers and the Blyde River Bunters, the Shelley Russel led St. Lucia Lakers have been quietly picking up momentum. This weekend they seemed to find top gear. First they set the tournament record in the beating the Namaqualand Daisies 6-1 and them more impressively they became the first team to topple the Blyde River Bunters in a defensive classic. They have been getting better each week and will hope that stays true for one more week.

Team of the Week (Men) – Addo Elephants

There really couldn’t be anyone else this week. The Elephants looked the whipping boys of the PHL but they showed up when it counted. There demolition of the Golden Gate Gladiators sent shock waves through the tournament and all of a sudden a few teams would have taken notice. Their dramatic victory over the Caveman confirmed that they will take their place in the Semi-Finals.

Goal of the Week (Women) – Sylvia van Jaarsveldt (Madikwe Rangers) vs. Wineland Wings

Although there were some fantastic short corner goals, its the diving deflection of Sylvia van Jaarsveldt that sticks out for me. I genuinely love a great deflection goal and thats exactly what this was.

Goal of the Week (Men) – Julian Hykes (Addo Elephants) vs. Golden Gate Gladiators

A drag flick from a short corner can be a thing of beauty, but one in a field goal is absolutely fantastic. Hykes popped up to rocket the ball into the top corner against the Golden Gate Gladiators. I really wish I could show you the video of it!

Player of the Week (Women) – Kate Koenig (St. Lucia Lakers)

The first ever hat-trick was scored in the PHL’s opening game of the weekend when the extremely likeable Kate Koenig. The IPT winner with Tuks proved she has what it takes at the top level. The first was a tap in, before nut-megging the keeper for her second. She rounded off the hat-trick to make it 4-0. She is now the tournaments top scorer.

Player of the Week (Men) – Ignatius Malgraff (Addo Elephants)

Regular hockey fans will know that Malgraff has immense talent and that is why he has collected a bunch of caps for South Africa, including the Commonwealth Games in 2014. But we havent seen enough of that talent in this years PHL. This weekend changed that as Malgraff was unplayable in scoring four against the Gladiators and topped off the weekend with a fantastic solo goal against the Caveman. If Malgraff is on fire the Elephants are a very different proposition!

Mark Sanders

“We are really happy with the way the tournament has gone. Having qualified for the semi-finals ahead of this past weekend so we were able to rotate and rest players. We have a very experienced core group of guys and they have been fantastic with the younger guys. Cameron Mackay and Justin Hammond are two that have really stuck their hands up and players that I would expect to see fighting for national honours this weekend. I really believe we have what it takes to win this weekend and be the first champions of the PHL, a lot of our guys recently won the IPT and know how to perform in the big games.”

Mark SandersCoach - Milo Maropeng Caveman
Shelley Russell

“Its been a great tournament and one in which we as a team have got better each week. Its been a very easy team to lead because the girls play with such great heart and intensity every game. We have a bunch of players that are gaining in confidence and that will definitely help. In terms of rising talent I have been incredibly impressed with Stephanie Baxter. She is diminutive, energetic and has some surprising power!

I would like to think we are capable of beating anyone and hopefully can get another one over the Blyde River Bunters in the semi-finals!”

Shelley RussellCaptain - Young Solutions St. Lucia Lakers

All images are used with the permission of Premier Hockey League and are credited to Marcel Sigg