BY JONATHAN COOK
Hockey powerhouses Durban and Cape Town came to grips in a thrilling, high-quality boys U13A clash on the opening day of Pro Series Indoor Nationals 2014 at the University of Cape Town Friday. It was a fitting follow-up to a wonderful opening function for the U13 and U14 sections of PSI Nationals 2015 (U16s and U18s start on Tuesday) at Ratanga Junction on Thursday, where the enthusiastic singing of the national anthem by thethousand-plus players touched the emotions of young and old.
In the Boys U13 A Section, the Durban Panthers and Cape Town Seals were involved in a ding-dong battle early Friday that saw the Seals trailing 3-1 at half-time. To their credit, the Seals came back strongly in the second half and clinched the game 7-6 in the final analysis. However, the final scoreline was only inked in after tournament founder and director Simon Martin had got the teams together and asked for honesty from the players after there had been a dispute about the score.
The standard of indoor hockey in the U13 A Section at UCT Friday had to be seen to be believed, especially considering the age of these youngsters. Not long after, there was a feisty battle between the Gauteng Gryphons and Boland Scorpions U13 boys’ sides in this high-energy elite section.
What was immediately apparent was the great combination-play and passion exhibited by both teams and it appeared that minnows the Scorpions might be on song to sting their more highly regarded opponents into submission.But excellent connection play, aggressive defence and clinical finishing saw the Gryphons from the Gauteng prevail.
The Scorpions had more than their fair share of chances at penalty corners but courageous, skilful defence kept them out. Bumping into Gauteng Gryphons franchise owner, the 1996 SA hockey Olympian Allistar Fredericks, it was not hard to detect the satisfied smile. “It’s looking good so far but there are some quality sides here and my players are certainly going to be tested,” said Fredericks.
Watching his U13A girls outplay the Southern Cape Sables it was immediately clear that Ally has some quality in his sides too. It was great to see national indoor players and coach Ryan Hack umpiring matches and their presence galvanised the juniors to even greater heights.
In the early afternoon the much-improved PE Vipers franchise saw their U13 boys team go 4-3 up against the fancied Cape Town Seals but an early penalty corner after half-time saw the Seals draw level at 4-4 . With eight minutes left the impressive Vipers were back in front and they held on to secure a fine 6-5 win.During the post-lunch period the Panthers trailed the quality West Coast Barracudas line-up 4-2 at the changeover despite two shots by the Durban lads going agonisingly over the crossbar and post respectively.
Trailing 5-3 with 10 minutes left, Panthers coach Price made the bold move to substitute his keeper in order to create the “extra man” and it worked a treat to pull a goal back and with seven minutes left there was everything to play for, but in the end the Barracudas held on for a 5-4 victory they hard to work all the way for.Through all this, the classy Boland Foxes went about their winning ways and three wins from three starts with 18 goals scored and just seven against tells a tale of a team with one thing on their mind – and it isn’t silver.The girls U13A section on the adjacent court at UCT was witness to the Gauteng Gryphons winning the maximum three matches from three outings but it was the classy Namibia Hawks who go into day two in first place, having taken match points plus bonus points from all three of their games.
Day one of PSI Nationals 2014 was brought to a close by a thrilling exhibition match that was chock-full of goalmouthaction and witnessed by a full house of U13 boys and girls.It was the first of the four scheduled matches between a South Africa team and an Africa All Stars team.South Africa are gearing up for the 2015 Indoor World Cup in Leipzig, Germany, and the men in green and goldprevailed 6-4 over the All Stars, setting the stage for three more box-office classics between these two impressive sides from 7.15pm Saturday, 12.30pm Sunday and Tuesday 7.15pm at the splendid UCT indoor arena. The U16 and U18 boys and girls tournaments starts Tuesday and promise some explosive indoor hockey by a groupof South Africa’s most talented young players.
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LOADED: 13 Dec 2014