South Africa: KZN hockey's golden nugget |
August 24, 2005
The Mercury, South Africa
> Page Views 7278
By Patrick Compton
In rugby, the Sharks have a habit of turning Free State ore into KwaZulu-Natal gold. Look at Andre Joubert, Vleis Visagie and, currently, Ruan Pienaar. Now, another nugget of golden talent has emerged in this province, this time holding a hockey stick.
Welcome PG (as he likes to be called) Geldenhuys on to the stage. The blond 21-year-old defender, who is studying for a degree in information technology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg aritzburg, was the star of last week's Under-21 interprovincial at Queensmead in Durban. Altogether, he notched 22 goals in seven matches for his team, Natal Midlands, a remarkable effort, making him the top scorer in the tournament by a country mile.
Each of those goals came through drag-flicks from penalty corners, and they came when it mattered, a sure sign of big match temperament. Geldenhuys notched five in the 6-2 semi-final win over Southern Gauteng, and another two in Midlands' 3-0 victory in the final against favourites Western Province.
"That's the best run of scoring I've ever achieved in outdoor hockey," said Geldenhuys, who has also been a regular member of the senior Midlands hockey team since last season.
Hockey is a radically different game now to what it was 25 years ago. Astroturf and a radical revision of the rules have made the game faster, more fluent and far more spectator-friendly.
Some things haven't changed, however. In matches where the teams struggle to break down dominant defences, converting penalty corners is the key to victory.
"My first priority is to maintain a good standard in my overall play," said Geldenhuys, who likes to play centre back or sweeper. But he realised, when he was still a schoolboy at Grey College in Bloemfontein, that if he could add another weapon to his armoury he could put distance between himself and competitors.
"In standard eight I started practising my flicking every day for between 90 minutes and two hours," Geldenhuys recalled. "Flicking is something that you have to practise constantly if you want to retain your accuracy. Even now, I practise every day."
He described flicking at penalty corners as a "mental battle" between the flicker and the opposing goalkeeper. "You try to keep him guessing and put him under pressure," the student said.
Midlands converted 26 of their 62 penalty corners in the Under-21 tournament, which is a conversion rate of 42%. "In international terms, 30% is regarded as an acceptable ratio," Geldenhuys said.
Last year, Geldenhuys travelled to Rotterdam to take part in the Junior World Cup.
"We didn't really feature," he said, "although we only lost 1-0 to the eventual winners, Argentina, and 4-3 to Germany. Despite that, I don't believe that South Africa are far behind the best teams in the world. What we lack is thoroughness of preparation and intense, high quality hockey throughout our season.
"Unfortunately, we only play that kind of hockey for two or three weeks in the season, when we have inter-provincial or national club tournaments."
The big problem, Geldenhuys said, lay in the weak league system. "Most of the time we hardly care who we're playing," he said describing league hockey in Pietermaritzburg. "We (Maritzburg Varsity) just turn up knowing we're going to win, usually by double figures."
The answers are easy, but making them happen is not. "There's no money in hockey," he said simply. "If there was significant sponsorship, we could have a national club league for example."
Your opinion counts.
Rate this article or enter your comments below.