As a hockey playing youngster in Johannesburg there was a highlight on my hockey playing calendar. The Aitken Cup This was the opportunity that I got as a boy from the East Rand to play hockey against some of the best schools in the country. It was an incredibly tough tournament that had four tiers and I was fortunate enough to play, coach and umpire in the A and B Sections. The striking thing about the tournament was how difficult it was.
Fast forward 17 years (Wow, I’ve almost been out of school for half my life!) and the quality of the tournament has continued to rise as it celebrated its 45th year. Alan Lion-Cachet is the mastermind behind it and all praise must go to him for organising a world class schools’ tournament, and in my biased opinion, the best tournament in school boy’s hockey in Africa.
But that was a long intro to get to the point of this article, which I apologize for while refraining from hitting the backspace key, which is to salute the incredibly Jeppe Boys. For as long as I was involved in Aitken and Southern Gauteng hockey, no school demonstrated the level of domination that Jeppe have currently shown. Coming into the tournament they were the four-times defending champions with a massive target on their back. It appears that being chased is exactly what brings out the best in Jeppe.
Jeppe emerged from their group with 3 wins out of 3 including in the titanic tussle with Parktown Boys, a school with such great hockey pedigree, which saw them line up against St. Stithians. Once again Jeppe showed their class in a dominant 5-1 win to move through to the semi-finals.
The semi-final was next with Jeppe taking a lead against KES in the third minute of the game through a superb penalty corner before bossing the game with a world class display in a 5-0 win. The manner in which they kept a school as good as KES at bay was a true thing of beauty watching on the live stream on YouTube.
In the final they would take on a team on the rise in Beaulieu College. It was a thrilling game with the flair of BC being denied by the team work and cohesion of Jeppe. After charging into a 3-0 lead Jeppe were made to hold on from a spirited fight back from Beaulieu to take the final 3-2 and their fifth title in a row. After the undefeated year of 2018, Jeppe have not rested on their laurels and have only gone on to improve and raise the bar of consistency to the Manchester City levels. It is now 18 Aitken titles out of the 45 played.
Of course, Jeppe were also the winners of the Boden tournament (U15), their second side won the Aitken D Section and their U16 side finished as silver medallists in their Top 8 competition. All of this at a time when Jeppe Boys alumni have been named in the national squad and the new National Men’s Coach is a former Jeppe Coach himself. The school does not just do class, they lead in class.
To all the coaches Lance Louw, Pete De Lange, Gilbert De Villiers, Francois Mutombo, Christy Mulhander, Ryan Milella, Craig Templeton, David Grace, Joshua Arnott, Shaun McGeer, Duncan Grose and Thabang Diole as well as the Director of Sport at Jeppe, Brendan Gittins, congratulations on setting the marker for which all schools should aspire to. Your boys are doing the school proud.
Of course, I have left one name for last Bryan Hillock. As long as I have known Bryan he has been too humble about the work he does. The man is an asset not only to Jeppe Boys, but to Southern Gauteng and to SA Hockey as he guides so many players that will be the future of this country. Thank you for your commitment to the game of hockey, enjoy your success, because you deserve it!
Images are by Marcel Sigg from Run Ride Dive. They are not for distribution. Follow Run Ride Dive on Facebook for all the images from the Sportsmans Warehouse Aitken and Boden Cups.