The South African national hockey sides head to the African Hockey Cup of Nations in two very different states. The SA Women’s side will go to Egypt as the favourites whose minds are already on their World Cup plans having secured qualification at the FIH World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg.
The SA Hockey Men are in a new rebuilding phase after a disappointing finish at the FIH World League Semi-finals and a current vacancy in the team’s management staff. A stand-in coach will be appointed for Egypt, where they will be tasked with qualifying for the 2018 FIH Hockey World Cup in India.
Regardless of the current position of both sides, the other carrot dangling at the African Cup of Nations is the rankings points, with both Men and Women looking to improve their current rankings of 15th and 13th respectively.
The SA Women’s side has announced their final squad of 18 ladies to do battle at the African Cup of Nations, sticking largely to the players that secured qualification to the World Cup.
There is an exciting recall to the squad for Olympian Dirkie Chamberlain who has just signed for Holcombe Hockey Club. Sylvia van Jaarsveldt, who was the joint top scorer in the Premier Hockey League, playing for the Madikwe Rangers, is also called up pointing towards Coach Sheldon Rostron’s desire to score more goals. Izelle Verster and Erin Hunter both return to the national set up having missed out on the FIH World League Semi-Finals.
On the Men’s side, the selectors have called up a squad of 32 players that will be downsized to the required 18 when the coaching staff for the Cup of Nations is finalised. However SA Hockey was keen to announce the squad so that the players could plan accordingly.
Gowan Jones and Siya Nolutshunga join World League keepers Rassie Pieterse and Richard Curtis in the squad, while UJ captain Gareth Heyns and his team mate Tyson Dlungwana are also recalled. Indoor and Outdoor Hockey dual nationals Mo Mea and Robin Jones are called up after missing out on World League Selection to complete the defender line-up.
In the midfield, national skipper Tim Drummond is joined by World League team members in Ryan Julius, Owen Mvimbi, Jonty Robinson, Reza Rosenberg and Dan Sibbald. Those six are further complimented by Taine Paton, Clinton Panther and the exciting Rusten Abrahams.
In the striking department, where SA really struggled at the World League, the line-up has been boosted by the inclusions of Maties captain Keenan Horne, Brandon Panther, Ryan Crowe, Richard Pautz and Melrick Maddocks.
The SA Men will be up against bitter rivals Egypt who defeated them at the World League in Johannesburg in a shock result. The lads will be looking to bounce back and get one back over their Northern neighbours in their own back yards.
The African Hockey Cup of Nations takes place in Ismailia Egypt from 19-29 October 2017 and the winner of each tournament will qualify for the FIH Hockey World Cup in 2018.