29 May 2020 – Matt Lewis was a standout, highly skilled, all-round performer for Clifton in 2018 when the school went through the hockey season unbeaten before losing their very last game of the season, which he missed through injury. His contributions on the field throughout his Clifton career were eye-catching and memorable, leaving many predicting a bright hockey future for him. That future, however, is not in South Africa, writes KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.
In 2019, Matt and his family moved to Australia with one of the primary reasons being to give him a chance to pursue his hockey dream.
Thoughts of moving Down Under started in 2016 when he went to Brisbane for a school exchange. “I just loved the country and the quality of hockey that they play at and I thought that’s it, we have to move here,” he said.
With his father, Terry, being an Australian citizen, and Matt a truly gifted hockey player, the family began to look into the possibility of the move. But grade 12 had to be dealt with first. “I wanted to finish school first as I felt matric was an important part of my life and I was extremely close with my friends,” Matt said.
“In 2019, the move began to Australia and my family is loving it here. My mom and I have just recently become permanent residents, which is awesome to have as there are so many benefits from it, and it gives us a sense of belonging here.”
Matt, who attended Clifton from grade R to matric, began playing hockey at the age of six at Riverside Hockey Club. It was the nature of team sport that captured his heart and a burning desire to win. “I have not looked back since,” he reckoned.
The foundation he received at Clifton was integral to his development, he said, citing very strong coaching from experienced coaches, which is “exactly what players want”. There was also a very important lesson to always be humble in striving for achievements.
At Clifton, Matt played in the first team from 2015 to 2018 and earned selection for the KZN Coastal and South African under-16 A teams in 2015 and 2016 and the KZN Coastal under-18 A side in 2018, when he was also chosen for the SA Schools B Team.
Missing from the above is 2017. That’s because Matt suffered a knee injury that needed surgery. It had been tough, but he wasn’t concerned that he would no longer be able to perform to the best of his ability. “I was more excited than ever to get back into hockey in 2018, I had absolutely no worry about my knee going into 2018 as I had done all the right rehab that would allow me to be 100 percent,” he said.
Inspirational captain leads Clifton basketball’s rise
Matt received the Hockey Player of the Year award from Clifton in 2018.
Blessed with good finishers and a gritty defence, Clifton put together a superb season under the guidance of coach Keegan Pearce, who Matt credited for helping him take his game to the next level.
They played 24 matches, won 20 of them, drew three and lost only their last game, when they had to play without goal scoring aces Matt and striker Declan Bradfield.
“The loss to Michaelhouse was a tough one to watch from the side line as I ruptured my ATFL ligament in an ankle,” Matt recalled.
But there were many highlights as the Clifton first team put up almost four goals a game on average, while conceding just less than one. Interestingly, during the season they played five schools twice – Saint Alban’s College, Uplands College, Saint Stithian’s College, Saint Andrew’s School, and Saint David’s Marist Inanda – and in every case won by a better margin the second time around, which showed progress and the ability to learn lessons from previous encounters.
Their three draws came against Cape Town powerhouse Bishops Diocesan College (1-1), a loaded Maritzburg College team (1-1) and Saint John’s College (2-2).
Maritzburg College, as a long-standing national power, was always a game that brought the Clifton team extra motivation, said Matt. So a 1-1 draw in Pietermaritzburg was a good result. Saint Charles, which has a lot in common with Clifton, was another game that the team always got themselves up for, he added, while Northwood and the Durban north derby was also a big one.
“My most memorable match of 2018 would probably have to be the 2-1 win against Northwood as they had a good side and I had a lot of mates in their team, so it was nice to get one over them.”
In May 2018, he was interviewed by KZN10.com’s Jono Cook, with whom he shared one of his goals: “Winning gold at [the under-18] IPT is another goal on my mind as I feel we, as KZN Coastal, have a very strong team to do so.”
In a tournament that underlined the strength of hockey in the province, the final came down to a showdown between KZN Coastal and KZN Inland, with Coastal coming away with the win. Mission accomplished, goal achieved.
A tale of two teams: the victorious KZN Coastal team celebrates after defeating their rivals, KZN Inland, in the final of the Under-18 Interprovincial Tournament in Pietermaritzburg in 2018.
His most memorable match ever with Clifton, he revealed, had taken place in 2016 on an overseas tour of the Netherlands and Belgium, two of the leading hockey-playing nations in the world. There, Clifton made the final of an under-18 tournament, where they faced the Polish national team in a game which they lost after a penalty shootout. “I had never seen so many people watching the game. It was just unreal,” he said.
In matric, Matt was selected to represent South Africa in the Africa Youth Games, which was another highlight in a career that had already included many.
Clifton recognised Matt Lewis’ achievements in hockey when he shared the 2018 Sportsman of the Year Award with William Dowsett and Todd Howard, who represented South Africa in waterpolo.
“I was extremely fortunate enough to go to a school like Clifton and I encourage every boy at Clifton to make the most out of it and wear the badge proudly,” he said in a message for the Clifton family.
With matric completed, the Lewis family made the move to Perth, Western Australia, which is a hot bed of Australian hockey. Matt explained: “The hockey system in Australia is just on another level and it shows in the results that the Kookaburras [men’s national team] and Hockeyroos [women’s national team] have achieved over the years.
Indeed, the Kookaburras have long been one of the world’s great teams, compiling a superb record that includes being the three-time World Cup winners, one-time Olympic champs, three-time World League winners, champions of the Pro League last year, and 15-time winners of the Champions Trophy.
“All the men’s and women’s national players live in Perth, so that they can train together. This means that the clubs will receive national players based on how many draft picks they have. This allows the competition to be extremely strong as you play against some of the best players in the world every weekend.
“The school boy level in KZN is stronger than here because all the hockey is played at club level here.”
The standard of play that Matt Lewis is facing in Australia is reflected in this photo of him in action for Hale Hockey Club: Matt is in possession, about to take a shot, and the man on the right is Matt Swann, who is closing in on 200 caps for Australia.
The fact that the move to Perth, which is known for having a large community of South Africa expats, went smoothly was a great help. “I knew only a handful of people coming over, but my dad knew loads of people who were his mates from school. I can’t thank them enough for making our move so easy.”
A smooth transition was also aided by former South African goalie Dave Staniforth and Jamie Dwyer, who knew about the Lewis family’s move and Matt’s hockey prowess. Not bad when one of the greatest to ever play the game is there to help.
Matt plays for Hale Hockey Club, which is coached by Staniforth. Last year, they made it to the league final where they were beaten by WASPS Hockey Club. In 2019, he was also selected to play for the Western Australia under-21 team that finished third in the Inter-state Championships. Sadly, those have been called off this season.
Another big feather in Matt’s cap was receiving an invitation to train at the Western Australian Institute of Sport where he got to spend time playing, training and conditioning with some of Australia’s best juniors.
Matt’s currently doing a Bachelor of Finance degree at Edith Cowan University, with his studies and hockey being his main focuses.
He has set his hockey aim high: “My long term goal is to one day play for the Kookaburras. It would be a dream come true as it has been a goal of mine for some time now.”
Matt Lewis on the run, taking the game to the opposition.
CLIFTON 1ST XI 2018
Clifton 7-1 Thomas More College
Clifton 9-1 Fourways High School
Clifton 6-1 DHS
Clifton 5-1 Saint Alban’s
Clifton 1-1 Bishops Diocesan College
Clifton 4-1 Uplands College
Clifton 3-2 Saint David’s Marist Inanda
Clifton 5-0 Saint Stithian’s College
Clifton 2-2 Saint John’s College
Clifton 5-0 Uplands College
Clifton 3-1 Nelspruit
Clifton 4-2 Saint Andrew’s School
Clifton 3-0 Saint Alban’s
Clifton 7-1 Trinity House
Clifton 2-0 Crawford College La Lucia
Clifton 4-1 Saint Charles College
Clifton 3-0 Glenwood
Clifton 2-1 Northwood
Clifton 1-1 Maritzburg College
Clifton 5-1 Saint Andrew’s School
Clifton 7-1 Saint Stithian’s College
Clifton 1-0 Helpmekaar
Clifton 3-1 Saint David’s Marist Inanda
Clifton 1-2 Michaelhouse
Played 24, won 20, drew 3, lost 1, goals for 93, goals against 22
8 May 2020 – The Covid-19 lockdown has been a shocking blow from the viewpoint of winter sports in schools, especially for learners in matric, set for one last hurrah, as the stars of their various teams, writes KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan. For Westville Boys’ High hockey captain, Ethan Matkovich, it’s meant missing out on an opportunity to follow up on a brilliant 2019 season, both individually and from the standpoint of the side.
Last year, Westville went undefeated, beating some of the top teams in the country, including Jeppe, whom many had considered to be number one before they met the KZN side, giving Westville a legitimate claim to the top spot.
Although he was in grade 11 at the time, Ethan was one of the key players in the Westville line-up, which was reflected in his selection for the KZN Coastal team and then the SA under-18 hockey squad.
Just before the lockdown began, that achievement was recognised when Ethan received his merit tie [a level above an honours’ award, given to boys who receive national honours] from Westville, along with Luke James (SA gymnastics) and Troy Botha (SA softball).
Westville vs Kearsney match report 2019
Westville vs Hilton match report 2019
There was uncertainty when schools closed early as to what it would mean for the winter sports’ season. Now, sadly, it has become clear: all schools’ hockey and rugby matches and inter-provincial tournaments have been cancelled.
“It is obviously something no one expected, or even thought this could ever happen. It is really tough,” Ethan said on Thursday.
“I think of all the build-up that we did, and all the training from last year that we haven’t been able to use. It’s a big shock for everybody. I was certainly expecting a lot of big things this year. Unfortunately it didn’t pan out and we’ve just got to try and find a way forward.”
Cleaning things up at the back, Westville hockey captain and centre half, Ethan Matkovich.
“It has been quite frustrating,” Director of Hockey, Cameron Mackay, said in a phone call. “I think it is more frustrating for the boys, especially for the matric boys who have gone through five years, always waiting for their matric year.
“Hopefully we can do something for the boys before the end of the year. It has been frustrating to be unable to do anything. I like to get onto the turf as much as possible, so it’s been tough.”
“There’s a couple of guys who have been in the system for a number of years. Keegan McCallum was injured last year, so he didn’t get to IPT, so this was his year to make up for that, but it’s tough because the guys have worked hard to get fit and get to where they are.”
There were many fans of hockey who were looking forward to seeing Westville in action this season, and they were not just supporters of the school. After their outstanding exploits of 2019, many wanted to see what kind of follow-up Westville would produce.
Mackay explained the make-up of the 2020 team: “We lost quite a few matrics from last year, but we still had Ethan. Our back four and goalkeeper were all gone, except for Ethan, then we kept two of our three starting midfielders, and we still had half of the forwards. We lost quite a few guys, but the grade tens coming through are quite decent as well. We had a good side for this year.”
It is worth noting the strength in midfield and up front because if there is one shortcoming in South African hockey, generally speaking, it is finishing. Then, having a general at the back, controlling matters, like Ethan Matkovich, goes a long way to providing a reliable and effective defensive unit.
“We have always had a philosophy at Westville of managing our back four the best we possibly can,” Mackay said, “and creating that platform first and then going forward from there. It’s been a good system in the last few years.
Always calm and composed, and a leader, Ethan Matkovich.
“A guy like Ethan is a blessing. He is just so controlled at the back. He controls the tempo of the game and he has a really good head on his shoulders.
“He keeps it simple and does the simple stuff better than anyone else, which is quite a strange thing to see in schoolboy hockey. You look for that at under-21 level, sometimes not even then. He has the maturity of a man at the back, which is cool.”
For Ethan, it is about leadership. He’s been a captain throughout his school career, in every team he has played in, excepting when he made teams as a player a year younger than the other boys.
Captaincy has always been a positive force in his sporting achievements, he said: I think it helps my game. It gives me more responsibility, which means I can’t lower my standards. I enjoy it.”
Like Westville’s approach to hockey, his leadership style is not flashy, it’s more of a blue-collar thing, getting down to work and setting the example. The word that keeps coming up is “simple”.
“We just have to keep things simple. The simple things are most often the things that win you games. Always work hard. You can’t beat hard work.
“We know, as Westville, we don’t have those flashy players and the ‘best players’, but we, as a team, will work harder than anyone else. We’re happy to play our way and do the hard work. If we win by one or we win by 10, we’re still winning the game.”
The Westville 1st XI of 2019 celebrate an undefeated season after a 3-1 victory over Kearsney College. Ethan Matkovich is on the left. (Photo: Highway Mail, https://highwaymail.co.za/)
That outlook is reflected in coach Cameron Mackay’s overall programme for Westville hockey. “We’ve set quite a good platform for ourselves where the kids are learning the same thing from grade eight,” he said.
“We might not always get the best kids [talent] in the province. We get a good type of kid, hard workers. We get good hockey players, too. But then you also have good cricketers who are good at hockey, and good soccer players who are good at hockey.”
“We have good depth, and we end up with kids who maybe didn’t come to Westville as hockey players, but they end up loving the sport.
“We set out a programme a few years ago – Sharmin Naidoo and I – where we put together a full programme that we wanted the boys to learn from under-14 to under-18, so all of our coaches spoke the same language. We kept it as simple as possible and we tried to make the philosophy that we will just do the basics better than anyone else, as opposed to trying to be really flamboyant and doing different things while allowing our coaches to do their own thing. I think that has been our biggest strength.”
In action in the famous black and white of the KwaZulu-Natal Coastal team.
It’s a no-frills approach, but it works very well. Ethan said: “Hard work is key. We hear from other players, at provincial tournaments, or at provincial training, they say they are a little intimidated to play us. Not because of the fancy stuff we do, but because we are always pressing and coming at them hard. I think that is shown in all aspects of the school. In academics, we generally have people in the top 10 percent of the province. In all sports, we generally have a group of boys performing at the top provincial level.”
As far as hockey is concerned, since Ethan has been at Westville Boys’ High (having attended Westville Pre-Primary, Westville Junior Primary, and Westville Senior Primary) the school has always been a top 10 team in South Africa. While he might not have the opportunity to continue that superb record this season with the school, there is at least some light on the hockey horizon for him.
Ethan is a member of the national under-18 squad and had been set to play for the side at the under-21 Inter-Provincial Tournament (IPT) this year. That opportunity has passed, but there is still a big event set for next year.
“We received an email the other day [from the South African Hockey Association], saying that for the under-18 squad they’re going to try and create contact time between the squad and the staff of those groups. They’ll try and do some video calls and mental training, speaking about a way forward.
“The Junior World Cup happens at the end of next year and hopefully a few of us will be able to go on that tour. They’re trying to be proactive, to connect with us, and making sure we’re okay. I assume they’re going to be doing this soon and showing us a way forward.”
The Westville hockey team, meanwhile, has not been idle. “We are trying to stay positive as a group,” Ethan said. “We are doing some fitness challenges and posting them on our WhatsApp group. Obviously everyone is hurting from this.
“We do simple stuff, like seeing how many push-ups you can do in a certain amount of time, a few silly things like that to keep us going.”
Besides being an outstanding hockey player, Ethan is also a top cricketer and has received his provincial colours in the sport. He is, naturally, captain of Westville, a player with a good head on his shoulders, and a composed batsman who plays with enviable fluency.
Ethan Matkovich on his way to an unbeaten fifty, which saw Westville to a hard-fought victory over DHS in the first term. (Photo: Brad Morgan)
The first term, he admitted, was an up and down time for the 1st XI, a very talented side on paper which, too often, found different players firing at different times and seldom together. In some games the bowling was on song, in others it was the batting, but, as happens in cricket, form can be a fleeting thing and the margins between winning and losing can be extremely fine.
Ethan was at his unruffled best in a win over DHS, leading his team from 50 for 5, chasing 146 to win, to victory without the loss of another wicket on a pitch that had some turn and an outfield that was very heavy, a fact that was reflected in the DHS innings which produced only two fours.
“We had a really good side on paper, but we battled to win the key moments in games,” Ethan said. But, with only four matric boys in the line-up, Westville was always a competitive team, which suggests good things are on the horizon, with lessons learnt from a challenging season set to become valuable assets. And the example set by the skipper is one of the biggest among them.
One thing that one can be pretty sure about, Ethan Matkovich will continue to lead, in good times, in bad times, when challenges are fun, when challenges are daunting, even in this unprecedented time. With that approach, whether the hockey season or any semblance of one happens this year, it is surely not the last we will hear about his sporting exploits.
The Glenwood and Hilton College 1st hockey teams engaged in an entertaining clash in very hot conditions on the Three Schools’ Trust Turf in Durban on Saturday, reports KZN10.com’s Brad Morgan.
(Due to a lack of numbers to go with the players’ names from one side and numbers that did not align with the players from the other on the team sheets, I am unable to identify the players by name, which is unfortunate.)
The sides started out rather cautiously, with both employing a half-court press. Hilton, though, sent their attackers a little higher and wider up the field, which allowed them to stretch the Glenwood defenders out enough to create slightly more space. This also allowed them to enjoy the majority of the possession in the first half.
Hockey 2019: Hilton vs Michaelhouse derby
Hockey 2019: Clifton vs Hilton match report
Hockey 2019: Hilton vs Westville match report
Midfield was a battleground, with both sides doing a good job of closing down the receivers in that area of the field. Both coaches would surely have liked to see a quicker transition of the ball when it reached the middle of the park, but Hilton did manage to muster some opportunities while keeping Glenwood pinned in their half.
In the early going, matters were very tight in the midfield, with both sides putting the other’s ball-carriers under heavy pressure. (All photos: Brad Morgan, KZN10.com)
It took a while, but Hilton, on the balance of play, took a deserved lead, thanks to a swift counter after what until that point was a rare Glenwood attack. They exited from their 16 quickly and let the ball go to the right wing, who, given plenty of open field in which to attack, ran hard at the scrambling Glenwood defence.
Cleverly, as he cut in near the circle, instead of trying to dribble the covering defender, he simply flipped the ball past him, pinned his ears back and chased it. Another Glenwood defender was flying across towards the near-side post, but the Hilton man got there first, diving to knock a square ball across to the striker, who managed to get stick to ball a fraction of a second before the Glenwood ‘keeper, who had laid out to try to reach it.
The ball flew high and sweetly into the back of the net and Hilton were in the lead.
Hilton College score the opening goal as their striker knocks the ball past a despairing dive from the Glenwood goalkeeper.
While it was mostly about Hilton in the opening stanza, Glenwood showed flashes up front on the counter-attack, causing a problem or two for the Hilton defence, which was, for the most part, solid.
The match opened up after the break. Interestingly, Hilton had changed their defensive approach and were pressuring Glenwood higher up the field, which meant the game was no longer as compact as it had been and thus there was more space to work in.
It was similar, though, in the fact that Hilton were enjoying the majority of the ball possession.
But Glenwood then made good use of the more open play. They launched a quick counter down the left wing after turning over possession and were duly rewarded when they found a foot in the Hilton circle.
The home team’s industry at last paid off when they scored off of a drag flick that had some serious heat behind it, making the score 1-1.
Glenwood showed no shortage of skill in the midfield, but a well-organised Hilton team, for the most part, kept them at bay.
They barely had time to celebrate that goal, however, as Hilton hit back quickly. They attacked down the right flank, this time carrying the ball along the baseline, which drew the goalkeeper to cover his post. When the ball was slipped back, the goalie was beaten and the Hilton striker had a tap-in for the second goal of the game.
Goal number two for Hilton was a simple tap-in after a sharp attack down the Glenwood baseline opened up the chance for the striker to grab a brace.
The third goal, which truly broke the contest open, came from a penalty corner awarded to Hilton.
At previous penalty corners, they had come close to adding to their tally off of a couple of variations, but all it took in the end was a straight shot. Rob Haynes let rip and the Glenwood goalie was unable to get his gloves together in time, just to his right, to stop the ball from crossing the line.
Glenwood threw themselves onto the attack as time wound down, asking questions of the Hilton backline, but the boys from the Midlands had the answers they needed and came away with a hard-fought 3-1 win.
“The first game of the hockey season is always an edgy one, especially with 2 tough opponents.
Tracey van den Aardweg feature photo: Kearsney’s Tiago Marques (in-photo) and midfield partner Campbell Duckworth served their strikers well.
‘With the scores at 1-1 with 7 minutes remaining, it was a nail-biting finish’
“Both teams play an extremely fast-paced game, providing spectators with an exciting, quality match.
“Kearsney gained early control with a few chances and finally found the back of the net through a good finish from Tiago Marques.
“Northwood then gained the upper hand in the 3rd chukka with all the pressure finally resulting in a great deflection goal early in the 4th.
“With the scores at 1-1 with 7 minutes remaining, it was a nail-biting finish.
“Kearsney seemed to find their rhythm again to control the final 5 minutes, earning a penalty corner from which they scored through Daniel de Kock.
“Players who had a big impact on the game for Kearsney were
“Chris Kiggen in goals
“Calvin Davis who controlled the defence
“Campbell Duckworth and Tiago Marques… their skills in midfield creating numerous chances for Kearsney’s strikers.”
KZN10.com’s Jono says: “This cracker signposts a thrilling season to come for our great @KZN10com hockey schools.”
Bring it on!! says @KZN10com
It was a great weekend for defending champs, Jeppe Boys of Gauteng(featured Image), as they marched convincingly to retaining their crown at the Belgotex Sport Kearsney Hockey Fives held at Kearsney College.
At the start of play on day 2 it seemed that Pool B could end up being a two horse race between KZN10 rivals Westville boys and Kearsney College. Unfortunately for the KZN lads some inspired play from Parktown Boys saw the Gauteng outfit top the pool ahead of Westville.
This left Westville having to play unbeaten Jeppe in the cross pool semi whilst Parktown took on Grey College in the other cross pool fixture.
The results were as follows:
Perhaps it was only fitting that the final would be between Jeppe and Grey as they both had lethal scorers and resolute defences throughout the tournament.
In the 3/4th placed playoff Pool B rivals, Westville and Parktown, competed to settle some unsettled business.
Jeppe who were the class act on the weekend defeated Grey College 10-3 in the final to convincingly take the title for the 2nd year running.
Westville defeated Parktown in the 3/4th placed playoff to take the Bronze.
Now in its 3rd year the Belgotex Sport Kearsney Hockey Fives tournament is looking set to become a must see weekend in the years to come. Well done to all who were involved.
The day one results had a settled look about it as Hockey powerhouses, Jeppe and Westville, sit atop their respective pools at the end of Day 1 of the Belgotex Sport Kearsney Hockey Fives tournament at Kearsney College.
Defending champs, Jeppe from Gauteng, are on a considerable tear having gone 4 from 4 on day 1. Most impressive is their strike rate of almost 9 goals for and a paltry 2 against per fixture.
Pool B leaders, Westville Boys, are in a tight race for supremacy as they battle it out for top spot with upper highway foes, Kearsney College. Their clash on the last morning will surely determine who ends top of pool and avoid the Jeppe juggernaut in the cross pool playoffs.
Fellow KZN10 Schools, Michaelhouse and DHS, have found the going tough as they only registered 1 win each. Clifton School are locked in a tight race with Grey College for the 2nd spot in Pool A behind Jeppe. With Cliftons last match against Jeppe it will take a spirited performance from the Durban boys to claim a win with a fair amount of goals.
With the business end of the tournament set for Saturday its set for a thrilling climax.
Tomorrow marks the start of the 3rd Belgotex Sport Kearsney Hockey Fives tournament to be played on the Masons Astro at Kearsney College. The tournament now entering its 3rd year is building on a marked upswing in the popularity of the format since the introduction of the format at the 2014 Youth Olympic games in Nanjing, China.
Hockey 5s is based on the format of the highly successful T20 cricket, Sevens Rugby and Basketball 3on3 models, with shorter matches and faster paced action. With these modifications it is sure to be an exhilarating and enjoyable game for both players and spectators this coming weekend.
There had been rumours that the marked success of the short format, particularly at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, may prompt the FIH(Hockey’s governing body) to scrap the 11 v 11 format for future Olympic games but this option was not taken further.
Participating boys high school teams include Clifton College, DHS, Garsfontein, Grey College, Jeppe Boys, Kearsney College, Michaelhouse, Parktown, St Andrews, Thomas More College, Waterkloof and Westville Boys’ High School.
Primary school teams taking part are Ashton, Bonisanani, Curro HCA, Highbury, Hillcrest Senior Primary, Northlands, Reddam Umhlanga, St Peters, Umhlali Prep and Westville Senior Primary School.
For a full set of fixtures and times Click here.
From Thursday 8 August – Sunday 11 August the action is sure to fierce. For a festive way to spend your long weekend head down to Bothas Hill.
The stage is set for yet another thrilling chapter in the long history of Michaelhouse/Hilton College hockey derbies. Come Saturday’s 11.20am push-back, the Aitkens Astro arena will be jam-packed.
Chanting, cheering Hilton and Michaelhouse boys supporting their schoolmates as well as scores of moms dads brothers sisters grandparents aunties and uncles – and hundreds of Old Boys of these two exceptional education institutions – will have their eyes glued to the turf.
This Martin Ashworth feature photo shows 2018 Michaelhouse captain Mubeezi Lubinga (left) first to congratulate 4-goal Ben (10) Rebeck in last year’s Aitkens Astro fixture.
The Aitkens Astro match in early May last year will go down as one of the most exciting and extraordinary encounters yet seen.
Hilton were the favourites – and proved as much in the opening chukka, during which they were all over the Men of House.
Yet the consequent Hilton College reward that should have reflected on the electronic scoreboard didn’t materialise…
Hilton could have been 2 or even 3 goals to the good in those fateful first 15 minutes – and that might have blown Men of House captain Mubeezi Lubinga and Co. out the ballpark…
If Hilton go 2 or 3 goals up, it is very seldom in modern times that the Boys in Black and White afford an opponent the privilege of getting even a foothold back into the game.
Then followed, on that Magical 2018 May-the-5th Day, one of those extraordinary sporting sequences that every schoolboy dreams of.
Michaelhouse’s grade 11 striker and penalty corner drag-flick ace Ben Rebeck flashed four goals into the back of the Hilton net…
The 4-2 Michaelhouse win had turned into the classic scenario of the underdogs upsetting the fancied in a head-to-head one-off battle where previous form and reputation means very little on the day.
Hilton duly won the return match last year – and once more in the first match this year.
And once again Hilton will be strongly favoured to emerge victorious come 12.30pm or so tomorrow when the last sound of the siren rings out after what is sure to 60 action-packed minutes of KZN10 schoolboy hockey.
Ben Rebeck is captain of Michaelhouse this year, while his KZN Inland team-mate of this year and last year, John Turner, leads Hilton from his goalkeeper position.
Of concern to the supporters of Michaelhouse is that their first team have proved to be vulnerable in the midfield at times this year.
There was no better evidence than in the crazy Kearsney College turnaround in the Aitkens Astro match earlier this season when a three-goal blitz in the second half owed much to the fact that the Men of House had lost control of the middle of the park.
Hilton have a very good midfield, with playmaker Cameron Pearce of immense value to his side.
Blessed with great vision – and skilful in retaining possession when under pressure – Pearce is able to hold up the ball in order to give his team-mates time to pour through, or release it quickly and accurately when the chance is on.
In Cameron Pearce and Ben Rebeck, Hilton and Michaelhouse have two outstanding exponents of the penalty corner drag-flick.
But the set-piece strike success or not depends to a marked degree on the speed and accuracy of the corner injection pass as well as the skill of the trapper in “teeing up” the ideal vantage point for the ace flickers to best display their net-busting & backboard-slamming prowess .
Both sides aim to play fast, attacking hockey while also paying due respect to the defensive element to the game.
The respective game plans devised by the coaches Devon van der Merwe and Darryn Gallagher (Hilton) and Richard Snowden and Grant von Mayer (Michaelhouse) will also be fascinating to witness.
The team who best understand what is required of them tactically will be best-placed to make the correct decisions in the various areas of the pitch.
A top KZN10 schoolboy hockey match is an exceptionally fast-paced, exciting spectacle in which defence can turn into counter-attack in the blink of an eye.
Who reads the game best over the 60 minutes on KZN10.com Super Saturday and who creates the higher percentage of quality space for their team-mates will likely take the best options in the moment.
Let’s hope that it’s going to be a free-flowing game where flair and the opportunistic moment is well-rewarded.
See you there.
There have been a number of exciting KZN10 schools’ first team hockey matches this season, but the Clifton College 4-3 at Hilton stakes a big claim to be the pick of the bunch.
RenateMonty feature photo: Clifton first team and title-winning KZN Coastal mentor Keegan Pearce is a tactician of note.
Here is Clifton head coach Keegan Pearce’s thoughts on the match, a match which I personally would never have predicted could go the Durban team’s way.
“Coming into Saturday’s fixture with Hilton, Jono, it certainly was daunting playing away against such a well-structured and tactically astute Hilton College team.
“The odds were certainly against us and we needed a good start to give ourselves an opportunity to win. The first 20 minutes seemed like a whirlwind. We scored 3 goals inside the first 15 minutes.
“We targeted the counter-attacks, and a key part of our game was to move the ball on early.
“We capitalised on what, at times, was loose marking and we connected passes superbly to get behind the defensive line almost every attacking play. This allowed us to gain entry into the attacking 23-metre area and also make circle entries, and 3 goals was the result.”
A combination of turnovers and counter-attacks from deep plus space in the Hilton midfield led to field goals by Clifton’s Justin Wood, Spencer Klue and Luke Wilson. But could underdogs Clifton maintain such incredible momentum?
Yes indeed. Here’s Keegan:
“We scored a 4th goal in the 2nd chukka to go 4-0 up and that really cemented our lead in the second half.”
With a Hilton player on the receiving end of an umpire’s green card at a point during the second chukka, Clifton pocketed their second deflection goal, Daryl Lotter emulating the same scoring manner of Justin Wood’s opening goal in this high-octane clash.
Remarkably, the rampant Clifton combination nearly went 5-0 up just 5 minutes from halftime after sterling work by John Munford, but the Daryl Lotter effort shaved the wrong side of the left post.
Back to Clifton head coach Keegan Pearce:
“Then we were complacent and conceded a penalty corner in the last 10 seconds of the 2nd chukka.”
The penalty corner stemmed from an inspired drive and Hilton College’s skilful playmaker and drag-flick king Cameron Pearce made no error in flashing the ball into the left side of the goals.
Despite Clifton being a remarkable 4-1 up going into the second half, this match was by no means over, as the classy Hilton College team had a good 30 minutes in which to overhaul the Durban side’s impressive, but not unbeatable, 3-goal margin.
Here’s Clifton coach Keegan Pearce:
“With nothing to lose, Hilton put everything they had into the last 30 minutes and pressed us so well that the cracks started to show!
“We defended deep for long periods, and naturally but unfortunately we adopted a defend-at-all-costs mindset. It meant our build-up was rushed and too direct, and Hilton capitalised on that to win a few penalty corners and scored a great goal from a strong flick.”
As KZN10.com reporter at pitch-side, ZekeO, commented in his match report, “Up stepped that man (Cameron) Pearce whose drag flick exploded the back of the Clifton net… 4-2 is how the (third) chukka ended.”
Back to Clifton mentor Keegan Pearce:
“We played out to a 4-2 lead until the last few minutes, when again some great pressing and brilliant intercepting from Hilton saw them score to make it 4-3.”
As KZN10.com reporter Zeke put it: “In the 59th minute (Stephan) Liebenberg guided a bullet cross into the back of the net, making the score 4-3. With a minute to go the tension was palpable as the Clifton boys tried to hold onto the ball.”
Clifton coach Keegan Pearce praised his boys for hanging on so well in that emotion-charged final minute to seal a memorable 4-3 victory.
Head coach Devon van der Merwe’s Hilton College lads will be looking to end off their successful season on a high note when they visit Aitken’s Astro in Balgowan this Saturday morning and a match-up with captain Ben Rebeck’s buoyant Michaelhouse side, who on Pape’s Astro last Saturday were the first Men of House in 19 years to beat Maritzburg College in their own backyard.
Hilton won this year’s first encounter with Michaelhouse in what was an at-times acrimonious affair, so let’s hope that the 15 June KZN10.com Super Saturday Feature Match will be free of undue tension and full of sparkling schoolboy hockey.
In 2018 the annual two-match Hilton/Michaelhouse series was shared 1 apiece, the Aitken’s Astro match a personal triumph for Ben Rebeck who nailed all 4 of the Men of House’s goals in the Michaelhouse victory.
Hilton College entered their match against Clifton College as clear favourites as they hosted the boys from Durban on a crisp but clear winters day. An inspired 1st half of hockey from the visitors was just enough to beat a 2nd half revival from the hosts, 4-3.
The match started with Hilton playing their customary brand of attacking hockey whilst employing an aggressive man to man in defence.
Clifton absorbed all the early pressure and were the first team to score. A Hilton turnover led to a breakout and a speculative cross was met by Justin Wood to score a deflected goal in the 6 minute. 1-0, and a dream start to Clifton.
In the 9th minute things got even better, another breakout from Clifton, and a brilliant timed deflected pass from Matt Strauss found Spencer Klue open in the D, who calmly slid the ball past the Hilton keeper, John Turner, to make the score 2-0.
The visitors weren’t done, either. Hilton were guilty of leaving far to much space in the midfield, space which the Clifton links and forwards ruthlessly exploited. A surging counter attack had Clifton again bearing down on the Hilton goal and some slick movement between Lotter and Stauss found Luke Wilson open to neatly tuck the ball in the goal. 3-0 in the 13th minute.
That ended a whirlwind chukka with many in the stands scarcely believing what they had just witnessed but all very aware that there was still 45 minutes of hockey ahead.
The 2nd chukka had more of a settled pattern of play as the midfield battle intensified between Cameron Pearce and Branson Bertasso, as each took opportunities to try and impose their will on the game. Pearce was his usual self as it sometimes took multiple defenders to halt his forward progress.
Hilton continued pressing up the field in man to man coverage leaving space for Bertasso, Munford and Strauss to work as they ran onto passes from the back.
Cliftons 4th goal in the 23rd minute came after a Hilton green card and a change in defensive formation. With a man down there was just a little more space for Jonathan Munro to smash a ball at goal from the top of the D. Through the crowd of bodies and hockey sticks the ball somehow found the end of Daryl Lotters stick who deflected the ball past Turner. 4-0 to the visitors it couldn’t get any better, could it?
In the 25th minute it almost was. Clifton had a great opportunity to make it 5 in the half, and surely seal the game in 2 chukkas, as a strong Munford breakout opened up space for Lotter. Turner did a great job of closing down the angle for Lotter whose push shot rolled agonisingly past the left upright.
The question was with time running down could Clifton keep a clean sheet or could Hilton, at least, get 1 goal back before the half? With time running down a lively run by Hiltons, Stephan Liebenberg, caused panic in the Clifton defence.
In the scramble Clifton were penalised for deliberately pushing the ball over the back line. PC to Hilton with 20 seconds remaining in the half. Pearce who had already had one of his efforts saved made no mistake this time as he beat keeper, Rajcoomar, to his left ending the 1st half 4-1 to the visitors.
After the game Keegan Pearce, coach of the Clifton College 1st side, had this to say regarding the opening half.
‘I think that what we were very good at was playing on the counter. They committed to many numbers at times, just because its their attacking style, and we just set up some great combination passes and got behind their lines which ultimately led to us scoring 4 goals in 25 minutes which was brilliant.’
Brilliant indeed and with only 30 minutes to play Hilton College Coach, Devon Van der Merwe, needed to make some adjustments.
The 2nd half a decidedly different feel to it as Hilton committed more numbers into the midfield and crammed the passing lanes. Keegan breaks it down for us.
’From an out letting perspective, they pushed extra numbers on the overload and we struggled to adapt.’
At times Clifton were guilty of just trying to be to clever with the ball when the the more prudent option would be to get the ball out of the red zone by any means necessary.
Hilton were camped in the Clifton third and in the 34th minute a strike from Liebenberg was well saved by Rajcoomar. Suubi Mugerwa-Sekawabe started putting his mark on the game as he directed the Hilton attack down the left and right channels as sprayed passes to eager runners.
Clifton defended valiantly as they threw themselves across the astro keeping the skilful Hilton players at bay. In the 42nd minute it seemed that the dam wall may be showing a few cracks. A racking slap stick pass from Sekwawabe earned Hilton a PC.
Up stepped that man Pearce whose drag flick exploded the back of the Clifton net making it a brace for the burly midfielder. 4-2 is how the chukka ended, but Hilton were quite clearly in the drivers seat at this stage.
With the the start of the 4th chukka Hilton ,again, increased the pressure by man marking the Clifton players. With the Clifton midfield and strikers seeming to tire a little there just didn’t seem to be the same kind of space for the backs and midfielders to operate in.
In the 49th minute came another Hilton PC with Pearce once again taking the flick forcing a great save from Rajcoomar. It was all Hilton as the probed and prodded trying to get to the by line. In the 53rd minute Rajcoomar was again the Clifton saviour as the keeper first saved a shot from Pearce and the follow up from Liebenberg.
The pressure on the Clifton goal seemed relentless, but just it looked like they would break the Clifton boys would rally and clear the danger.
Clifton escaped up field and in the 55th minute and earned a precious PC of their own. Munford, showing great strength on the ball, was dragged to the ground buy a Hilton defender far outside the D. The PC didn’t yield any fruits but it had moved play into the Hilton defensive third.
A Strauss reverse stick strike beat Turner to the left to make it 5-2 to the visitors? No, the umpire blew his whistle for an third party obstruction on Clifton. That certainly would have sealed it, but on we played as the time continued ticking down.
Back came Hilton as they searched desperately for their third goal and in the 59th minute Leibenberg guided a bullet cross into the back of the net making the score 4-3. With a minute to go the tension was palpable as the Clifton boys tried to hold onto the ball. Mercifully time ran out with the Clifton in control and, more importantly, holding a 4-3 advantage over the top ranked school in the country.
Keegan had this to say,
‘in the last chukka they went 10 v 10 against us which made it very hard for us to get connections which is what we thrived on in the 1st half. They were great interceptors and won some proper balls so it was tough for us to get forward.’
When asked about the season as a whole and his teams performance on Saturday.
‘I think our biggest problem is that we have so many junior boys, so we have only 3 matrics, so its very hard to find consistency as boys have up and down games as teenagers do… I think we have gotten better and better which is to be expected if the boys put in the hard work.
I just think today we just capitalised and scored the goals where in the first five our six games we just didn’t score enough goals. If you not going to score goals you not going to win matches.’
Thank you Keegan for your time and what a great way for Clifton to end their 2019 season with a win over Hilton College away from home. Next up for Hilton is a trip to frenemies, Michaelhouse.
Hilton College 3(1)
Goals: Cameron Pearce x 2, Stephan Liebenberg
Clifton College 4(4)
Goals: Spencer Klue, Luke Wilson, Justin Wood, Daryl Lotter