Johannesburg - South African hockey is on the rise thanks to the success of the Premier Hockey League (PHL) tournament, which was recently hosted in Randburg, north of Johannesburg.
The PHL was created last year to generate a pool of South African hockey players from high school through to provincial club sides. The competition is a key part of the SA Hockey Association high-performance pipeline, which is aimed at supplying the national men’s and women’s teams with players for international competitions.
The PHL gives young players an opportunity to test their skills against senior national players.
Event manager Emile Smith says a tournament like this not only builds the national teams, but gives opportunities to junior players who want to carry on playing the sport after high school.
“This tournament was created with a long-term vision to create a pool of players who can be nurtured and built into the national system. They will be playing with and against some of the senior members,” Smith said.
He highlighted the importance of getting external funding from structures such as the national sports department and sponsors. He says this funding has helped them rectify mistakes made in the previous year’s tournament.
As a result, this year’s edition proved to be better than last year’s and the high standard of competition produced some fantastic hockey for the national selectors and fans.
Orange River Rafters were the winners in the women’s section, beating St Lucia Lakers on eight-second penalty shoot-outs because of rain.
Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen stormed to a successful title defence, beating the formidable Drakensberg Dragons 3-0.
While the top three national sports – soccer, cricket and rugby – enjoy more exposure than hockey, such tournaments play a major role in promoting the so-called Cinderella sports.