Quintin van Jaarsveld
In just their second appearance, the South Coast Marlins Under-13 boys teams won gold at the Pro Series Indoor (PSi) Nationals being held in Cape Town this week.
With the PSi phenomenon only coming to the South Coast at the start of 2016, the local Under-13 boys and girls and Under-14 girls sides were up against vastly more experienced teams in the 11th national championship.
Despite this, the girls teams showed promise and improvement, while the Under-13 boys played superbly to be crowned the first national champions in the South Coast franchise’s short history.
The Nationals returned to Cape Town, where players stayed at the Garden Court Hotel for the duration of the tournament and were transported around Cape Town by HG Travel to the many different venues.
A whopping 124 teams competing from over 20 franchises all over South Africa sought national supremacy in the respective age-groups.
After a memorable opening day at Ratanga Junction, the Junior Nationals got underway on Friday and saw four thrilling days of competition. The Senior Nationals concludes on Friday.
This year, players were once again afforded the privilege of watching the South African men’s team take on the World All Stars and the International All Stars teams in a triangular series, where the world’s best indoor hockey players such as Robert Tigges, Bennie Wess, Nicky Leijs Teun Rohof and South Africa’s indoor and outdoor Player of the Year Jethro Eustice to name but a few showed the players what the game is all about.
The Marlins Under-13 boys team consisting of Rafe Lombard, Kai Hielckert, Oliver Currie, Joseph Currie, Qhama Nyathi, Reece du Toit and Reece Murray and were a cut above the rest with their terrific teamwork and superior skills.
They won all nine of their games and did so in spectacular fashion, each with a bonus point for scoring more than five goals.
The team scored 85 goals in their nine games with Oliver Currie scoring a Marlins record of 46 goals in the tournament. Nyathi (pictured below) was in sensational form and was rewarded with the honour of being named the Player of the Tournament in the Under-13 boys section.
“A massive congrats to the boys and to Nyati for his individual accolade. They were excellent throughout the tournament and did the Marlins proud,” Marlins franchise owner Dale Esselaar told eHowzit.
The Under-13 girls team comprised Sinethemba Nyathi, Slondiwe Ndwalane, Kyla Peyper, Salma Beija, Leandrie Nel, Jessica de Bruyn and Chelsea Reider.
They had a tough tournament, finishing last in their tough pool against their more seasoned opposition, but never gave up fighting and showed glimpses of their potential.
“A big part of the reason for their placing is because players are not exposed to indoor hockey from a young age on the South Coast and then when it comes to Nationals, the level is raised to a height which these players aren’t able to reach yet,” said Esselaar.
Briley Roberts, Jodi Jefferys, Chloe Wallis, Calli Allan, Leche Greyvenstein, Janelle van Schalkwyk and Sarah Rolfe formed the Under-14 girls team.
They had a relatively good tournament and grew tremendously from their previous Nationals in the Under-13 section last year, finishing 11th out of 18 teams and missing the top 10 by just two points.
Esselaar said he’s equally proud of the three teams; for their efforts and the manner in which they represented the Marlins.
He indicated that the teams’ contrasting performances highlight the high-level of hockey talent on the South Coast, as well as identified what’s required to improve the overall standard of players across all age-group.
“The South Coast Marlins have an in-depth plan and programme, which we want to implement on the South Coast to develop indoor hockey for children starting from the age of nine in order to groom these players and send them to the Under-11 and Under-12 Nationals, which takes place in April each year.
“We can then have these players grow with the Marlins and feed through the Under-13 and Under-14 tournament and eventually grow to the senior Under-16 and Under-18 tournament, by which time they will be attending their sixth to eighth Nationals.
“The biggest issue we have on the coast is schools not realising the value that indoor hockey adds to a player’s technical and skill ability. If you look at the top hockey-playing nations in the world, especially Germany and the Netherlands, they have huge indoor hockey programs because they have realised the value it adds to the player’s game and that’s why they are always so far ahead of the rest of the world in both the indoor and outdoor version of the game.
“For the Marlins to be able to develop the players and the game on the South Coast, we are appealing to schools to make their venues available for academies to be run and the dream would be to start a full-on schools indoor hockey league for all age groups as soon as possible in the near future.
“If schools do make their halls available, we will need the wooden boards which surround the field to be sponsored by businesses where we would then fill the board with their branding in return for the donation of a board. The players and parents who have been to the national tournaments will stand by me in saying that it is the most well-run school/age group level tournament in South Africa.
“It is an amazing opportunity for the players and each year, those who realise the benefit of the Nationals do everything they can to make sure they are able to get their players back there each year, and each year the tournament just gets better and better.”
Looking towards next year, Esselaar said, “There will be a junior league for Under-11 and Under-12 players during February if we are able to secure a venue and the senior league will be run as early as May in order to allow the players and parents to make provisions for the extremely high costs of the nationals in December.
“Nationals costs players in the region of R8 000 as a result of the high cost of flights and the tournament cost which includes the players accommodation, meals and transport in and around Cape Town for the duration of the tournament.”