Madibaz Hockey Players Debut For South Africa

Madibaz hockey players Dalan Phillips and Chad Cairncross are waiting to hear about their possible inclusion in the South African men’s team for next week’s test against Ireland after making their international debut against Austria in Durban last week.  The new-look SA side, which included more than a dozen new caps, took on the European team in a four-match series at Queensmead Stadium from January 5 to 9.  Phillips debuted in Monday’s clash, with Cairncross following the next day.

Both went on to play in three of the four fixtures.  Although the energetic but inexperienced SA side lost the series, they dominated in the fourth and final test to take a 3-2 win.  SA are currently ranked 12th in the world, while Austria lie 23rd Phillips and Cairncross were full of enthusiasm following their test debut.

“We had been training for three days before the first game, so I was quite tired and nervous but once the adrenaline kicked in and the excitement took over, I was raring to go,” said Phillips.  The 25-year-old striker said it was an honour to represent SA on the international stage.  “The first test was a big step for me; it was about building my future and proving myself for the next test.  In the last game I scored my first international goal, which was the highlight of the week for in the international standings.  The third-year NMMU law student said the team had created an encouraging environment for the new players.  It’s a good bunch of guys and we all get along really well as a team.  It’s a young group with a lot of new players so we have a strong foundation to build on for the future.”

His selection reconfirmed his determination to pursue a professional playing career, after an injury put paid to a promising two-year stint in the English and Spanish leagues.  The East London-born player then relocated to PE and enrolled at NMMU.  “I continued playing hockey for the Madibaz for the love of the game, but I was ready to call it quits on my hockey career at this point because of my injury.”

His return to full fitness with the Madibaz allowed Phillips to hold onto his dream and he aspires to become a fixture in the national team as they attempt to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.  “I want to earn as many caps as possible and prove myself for the Olympic team.”  His teammate Cairncross has similar ambitions for 2016 and beyond.

“I really hope I’m chosen to play in the next test so I can work towards achieving my Olympic goals.  The 21-year-old said his international debut test had been a big learning curve.  “At this level, it’s not just about playing hockey. It’s about tactics and mental strength and preparation as well as physical conditioning.”  The midfielder said the highlight of the series was winning the final game, “It was a really good team environment.  The coach tried to put as little pressure on us youngsters as possible, which definitely helped on the field.”

PE-born Cairncross said that playing for NMMU had prepared him well, “Playing for Madibaz is a lot of fun and I think enjoyment is a big part of being successful as a hockey player.”  The third-year psychology student said his university team and coach were very encouraging, “Our club really supports the players and tries to help them achieve national success.”

NMMU Madibaz hockey manager Cheslyn Gie said the university was delighted to have two of their players join the SA team.  “We are extremely proud of Dalan and Chad. It just goes to show that their hard work and persistence has paid off as both of them have put in plenty of extra training hours.”  The first of the two international test matches against Ireland takes place on Tuesday in Cape Town followed by another against Holland.

Photo: Madibaz hockey players Dalan Phillips (left) and Chad Cairncross made their debut for the South African men’s side against Austria last week.