The South Africa men’s hockey team take on Zimbabwe on day one of the Greenfields Africa Hockey Championships on Friday. The 19:00 start will see reigning continental champions SA under the leadership of Tim Drummond of Western Province. The classy midfielder first made a name for himself in the colours of KZN Coastal Raiders but is now bracketed under the Western Province banner.
A solid start, which focuses more on cohesiveness and quality of play than the final scorecard, will be a useful launch pad for the South Africans in this 10-day event but the men in green and gold are still expected to score a hatful of goals against an exceptionally inexperienced Zimbabwe line-up. The Zimbabweans have just 21 Test match appearances between them while the South Africans’ collective tally runs into the hundreds. Captain and midfielder Tendai Maredza and defender Tapiwa Mafi have played five Test matches each, while midfielder Rowland Rixon-Fuller has represented the Zimbabwe national team on 11 occasions.
This leaves 15 of the 18 players who will take to the Randburg turf Friday making their debut appearances and this alone gives the South Africans a massive advantage. Rixon-Fuller plays for the Glennane club in Ireland and he will have his hands full alongside skipper Maredza in the tussle for dominance in the middle of the park. SA will be missing central defender Rhett Halkett, who has to fulfil a match commitment with his German club Mannheimer HC before making his way back home. Friday’s first of five matches kicks off at 12:15 when the Ghana Black Sticks women tackle Nigeria.
South Africa: Rassie Pieterse, Jethro Eustice, Miguel Da Graca, Julian Hykes, Brandon Panther (Southern Gauteng); Jacques Le Roux, Daniel Bell, Wade Paton, Tim Drummond (capt), Dylan Swanepoel, Pierre De Voux, Lloyd Norris-Jones (Western Province); Matt Guise-Brown, Richard Pautz (Northern Blues); Dan Sibbald, Jonty Robinson (KZN Coastal Raiders); (Natius Malgraff (Eastern Province).