Hockey: SA U21 side in PMB event

THE National U21 Hockey team will participate in the Senior Men’s Inter-Provincial Tournament (IPT), which will be held in Pietermaritzburg on July 29, 30 and 31 at Maritzburg College astro turf.

Men’s National U21 hockey coach Gareth Springs said the tournament gives his team good preparation for international competition.

“The tournament is an annual senior national provincial tournament as well as the national selection tournament as the squad for the world cup will also be selected during the tournament.

“I am not expecting the U21 to necessarily win, but they will compete very hard against senior players,” he said.

National U21 player Andile Ndlovu said he is excited as this year is his first time competing and believes it will be a real challenge for the U21 SA side as they will be playing against very experienced players.

“The tournament is crucial for us as we have big tournaments coming up, like the Afcon this year and the Junior World Cup next year; it will help us prepare and be ready for such tournaments,” Ndlovu said.

The Hammarsdale-born player only started playing hockey in Grade 3 and has since represented the provincial teams in U12 and U13.

“I attended Maritzburg College, and with great coaching stuff and great training facilities my game improved from when I started playing at Richmond Primary School,” he said.

“I have also represented the SA U18A side which played in the Australian series and that was my highlight.

This year I’m currently at the University of Johannesburg where I’m playing my hockey now and being here I want to become an even better hockey player and add to the success of the club.”

Another player, Brad Sherwood, said it is going to be a tough tournament but he thinks it’s good experience and a learning curve for all of the SA U21 players to be exposed to a high level of hockey.

“We are in a different team set-up than we are used to from our clubs, with players coming together from around the country, so this tournament is definitely a part of our building phase as a team.”

The Athlone-born hockey player also said he was fortunate enough to get a few caps for the 1st team in Grade 9, while he was at Maritzburg College.

Sherwood is currently a student at the University of Pretoria playing for the men’s side, which won the Varsity Cup and finished third at the University Sport South Africa tournament as well as winning the Pretoria league.