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.