If indoor hockey needed an advert, the opening match of the 2016 Greenfields International Indoor Series between South Africa and the All Stars was the perfect tonic. In front of a packed and vociferous crowd at UCT Sports Centre, the two teams gathered to produce a game of indoor hockey that would reverberate throughout the PSi History.
Although these do not count as official test matches, there is nothing about them that suggests they don’t count. In the South African side there were first time call ups for Reza Rosenberg, Rustien Abrahams and Wade Paton, while Jarryd Jones was also recalled after an injury. The All Stars featured two new caps with Mo Furste (2012 FIH World Player of the Year) and Timo Wess (German captain at the 2008 Olympic Games, they won Gold) being joined by the likes of Benni Wess and Sjoerd de Wert who missed out in July.
As the game started there was almost a sense of anticipation in the air as the All Stars ran onto the field, but the South Africans have developed a brilliant ability to believe they are equals on the field and in a frenetic paced match Justin Domleo made it 2-0 with a field goal and a penalty corner as SA looked in imperious form. While the combinations of Matt Fairweather and Richard Curtis kept the All Stars at bay it was only a matter of time as they laid siege to the South African goal. To the delight of many fans that goal came from Robert Tigges when a penalty stroke was awarded for a foot on the line.
The All Stars then matched their name as an incredible team move between Austin Smith and Robert Tigges left Nicki Leijis one-on-one with Curtis and he produced a superb little dink over the SA keeper to level the game. He then ran up another attack and produced a fine finish to make it 3-2 to the All Stars, who had time to net one more before half time to make it 4-2 when Mo Furste scored his first to the absolute delight of the crowd. This man is entertainment personified.
The crowd were being treated to exhibition forms of hockey from the All Stars who passed it with incredible pace from Benni Wess, to Timo Wess, from Teun Rohof to Brynn Cleak and from Sjoerd de Wert to Austin Smith. It was everything almost as Simon Martin would say, the unthinkable made possible.
The second half started as a battle between Jethro Eustice and Laurens Goedegebuure who just dismissed each attempt in the way that you dismiss an ex-girlfriends Facebook friend request. But then the crowd were treated to some quick goals as Benni Wess and crowd favourite Robert Tigges got on the field and made it 6-2. South Africa pulled one back through outdoor hockey legend Wade Paton, playing his first ever game for SA Indoor Men.
Mo Furste started living up the experience as he took a short break and allowed one of the Boland Foxes players to play in his place for a couple of minutes, but came back onto the field to net two more goals and secure the first hat-trick of the series. Both goals gave keeper Matt Becker no chance.
The South Africans however showed heart in refusing to lie down and Keagan Robinson first and then deservingly Jethro Eustice both fought back to make it 8-5. The Eustice goal was one that must have taken about 10 deflections but still ended in the back of the net. Another superb team goal came from the All Stars as Tigges and Rohof, two fantastic ambassadors for Indoor Hockey and PSi, did the hard work to let Mo Furste net his fourth. He would also net his fifth while wearing a kitbag from Princess Hockey to give to a lucky fan after Justin Domleo, one of SA’s best players on the night, netted his own hat-trick.
Timo Wess managed to get himself on the scoresheet with a truly fantastic goal and as both keepers were pulled for the final 90 seconds, South Africa got the last goal through their captain Matt Fairweather. The final score 7-11 in favour of the International All Stars, but in truth everyone who got to witness the game was the winner.
Richard Curtis, the South African goalkeeper in the first half: “It was a really competitive game, especially in the first half, we took our opportunities well but they put us onto the back foot. We definitely are on the right track but we need to make sure we cut out the mistakes tomorrow”
Victorious All Stars defender Timo Wess “PSi is an absolutely amazing experience, I have not played indoor hockey in front of crowds like this before. The SA team were really good and we will have to make sure we are stronger tomorrow” and his brother Benni Wess “This is the craziest hockey festival in the World and it’s great to be back. South Africa have improved in the last year and so we look forward to some tough matches this week!”
And finally some closing thoughts from the man that makes all of this happen, Simon Martin, the founder of PSi Hockey “The All Stars have never played together and they started off quite slowly, but they started to grow into the game. It was great to see the SA Team battle in the match in patches and I predict they will definitely get better as the series progresses. The highlight though must surely be the unselfish play from the All-Stars who constantly move the ball and play for each other. It’s a great lesson for our PSi kids”
This article was initially written for PSi Hockey and published on their social media and website. All images are courtesy of PSI Hockey or from courtesy of Sports 24 Seven.