The upcoming landscape for South African hockey players should be an exciting one. The country will host the biggest hockey tournament we have hosted so far (no disrespect to the Champions Challenge) when we host the FIH World League. Following on from this will be the African Cup, which is likely that we will have to win in order to qualify for the FIH Hockey World Cup and rounding off to the Commonwealth Games and World Cup in 2018. With that in mind today Mickey Gordon, convener of Selectors, announced the 25 strong women’s squad and 21 strong men’s squad that will largely do battle for the green and gold.
“With a view to the World League Semi-Finals, the Africa Cup of Nations in August and the Commonwealth Games next April, and possibly the World Cup later in 2018, we have chosen a fairly long-term squad so we can look at selection from a consistent basis. We’ve set out to change the age profile because we have a lot of qualifying to do and these youngsters can gain experience.
“We will use all 25 players in the build-up to the next World Cup and we need to get youth into the squad. I sit on the U16 to U21 national selection panels as well in order to get some consistency. We want to grow our talent and if you look at world standards these days, then there is a predominance of youth,” Gordon said.
Although the focus is on younger players there are still a handful of the experienced players like Rassie Pieterse, Julian Hykes, Jethro Eustice, Owen Mvimbi, Lisa Deetlifs, Sulette Damons, Shelley Jones and Nicolene Terblanche to name a few.
I am also aware that the players that were not at IPT for various acceptable reasons were not considered for selection at this point, but will be invited to selection camps.
The lack of games and lack of appearance at the Rio Olympics has hurt South Africa, and the postponement of the PHL set to be competed in June has definitely made things tougher. Our rankings have also slipped meaning invitations to major events are not a foregone conclusion and the lack of a sponsor (as well as the exclusion of SA from the Home and Away series) means that we have our backs against the wall. Thats usually when the best of a South African is seen!
One thing is for certain is that the next two years offers a range of national hockey that many would not have experienced as the World League, African Cup, Commonwealth Games and World Cup, coupled with a potential Summer Series and a few test matches means its as good a time as any for the upward curve to start.