TO score in the decades-old Michaelhouse/Hilton derby is an achievement many would treasure. Yet on a beautiful KZN midlands May Day in 2018 a feat was achieved that has probably never been achieved before – and possibly never will be again. I toyed with headline possibilities that are heaven-sent chances for headline writers, which they seldom get. “Ben 10 blasts 4”; “4-goal Ben bashes opposition out the Ball Park”. In a dream match, grade 11 Michaelhouse boy Ben Rebeck, playing as an attacking midfielder rather than his preferred striker position, scored all four goals in front of his schoolmates in a dream home match on Aitkens Astro that saw the red-and-white checked underdogs surprise the fancied Hilton College 4-2. The return match at Hilton College did not for Michaelhouse’s way as captain Duncan Fyvie and his Hilton team-mates dominated proceedings. But no one can take that dream May Day on Aitkens away.
Ben Rebeck thrives on pressure, never more evident than in a fighting half-century on Goldstones first term 2018 in a lost cause against the rampant Maritzburg College first XI bowling quartet spearheaded by 16-year-old SA Schools and SA U19 fast bowler Mondli Khumalo and fellow quicks Cameron Hollaway, Jayden Gengan and Shaun-Lee Elliott.
As the Michaelhouse first hockey team penalty corner drag-flick and penalty flick go-to man, key playmaker and field goal marksman a lot rests on the Rebeck shoulder blades.
“I love the pressure – and accepting responsibility for doing my job for the team,” says Ben. “I know that if I don’t score then the key is to force a save out of the keeper so I find it definitely focuses my mind. The pressures vary depending on the match situation, but I always know that I’ve put in the work and that I’m ready to score.
“My preferred position is striker as it gives me a lot of freedom to express myself and I enjoy the pressure of taking opportunities to score goals for my team. This year I’ve also been playing as a high central midfielder as we felt I could offer the team a dual role, through always looking to go forward and setting up scoring opportunities for others.”
“Ben 10” is the chant and the song that echoes across Aitkens Astro in the park-life surrounds of beautiful Michaelhouse when the loyal, hugely supportive Boys of House who pack the terraces on the School side of the turf give praise to their super-hero.
They did just that and more, much more, on the 4-2 Dream May 5 Day.
Ben’s prowess has earned recognition.
“When I was at Clifton Prep, Durban, I was selected for the KZN Coastal teams up to U13 and since I’ve been at Michaelhouse I’ve played in three Hockey Nationals for the KZN Inland U14 and U16 teams. It was really great to be selected for the SA U16 squad in 2016 and 2017, both of which were fantastic experiences. This year I played in the KZN Inland U18A in the Old Mutual iWYZE Hockey Nationals at Maritzburg College where our aim was to win the tournament – we had a brilliant squad and coaches. Unfortunately we lost to KZN Coastal in the final.”
Ben’s excellent week in the striker role was rewarded with his selection for the SA U17 High Performance squad. Indeed, Ben 10 would not have looked out of place in the SA U18B or SA U18A sides, the latter team edged by Australia U17 Schoolboys in a thrilling series subsequent to Hockey Nationals.
Benj has also enjoyed memorable moments in club hockey.
“Playing for Kearsney Hockey Club firsts under Sihle Sigz Ntuli in last year’s Belgotex Greenfields Elite Club Challenge at Riverside was a big highlight for me. It was exciting playing at such a high level and I enjoyed the regular league games. That will hopefully continue this season, as the Michaelhouse school season has ended.”
Ben 10 has just enjoyed his second year in the Michaelhouse first hockey team and has notched up around 40 first team appearances. “Michaelhouse doesn’t seem to play quite as many matches as other schools but I hope to make it past 50 caps next year as I’m in grade 11.
“I’m grateful to the coaches at Michaelhouse who last year convinced the management of the school to relax the policy that grade 10s aren’t allowed to play in the first team. I have become calmer and more comfortable in my role in the team since my debut. I’m also grateful to players like Mike Menear and Nick Forster who helped me to settle in very easily last year… that helped me to focus on scoring goals. I feel greater freedom on the ball this year as the pressure of being the youngster in the team and trying to avoid errors has diminished.
Ben 10’s most memorable game in the Red and White colours of Michaelhouse?
“Apart from my debut in 2017 against Westville, which we lost, my most memorable game for Michaelhouse was this year’s first match versus Hilton College. We won 4-2, a game which many thought we would lose. Things went my way on the day and I was able to score all four goals for the team. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the camaraderie of my team-mates and the school on that day. It feels so great to contribute.”
As Ben illustrated with some electrifying goals this year, having the ability to project penalty corner drag-flick missiles into the back of the net is a big weapon in his make-up. So what key ingredients lead into the probability of successfully engineering one of those trademark Ben 10 lightning strikes?
The penalty corner injector’s speed and accuracy, followed by the skills of the PC trapper: Their efforts enable Ben to have more placement options.
“A good push and a good stop are critical for the flicker to be able to put the ball where he wants to. If either is slightly off, the flicker must either quickly adjust his timing and target, or pull out of the flick altogether. Michaelhouse captain Mubeezi Lubinga has a quick, accurate injection and Tom Gibson is an excellent trapper so, if the surface of the Astro is reliable, they give me the best chance of getting off a good flick on target. It’s the flicker who gets the credit for the goal but it’s really very much a team effort.”
The Michaelhouse first team have blown hot, very hot, and cold, very cold, this season.
“We had a shaky start, although we did beat the strong Westville side in our second match, but we quickly improved and were on a 7-match winning streak until a disastrous loss to St John’s College brought us down to earth again. Nothing went right that day. The match against Maritzburg College on our Aitkens Astro was one of the most exciting I’ve played in.”
Indeed, it will go down as one of the KZN10.com Super Saturday matches of the season. The Rebeck Factor was shown to great effect but Michaelhouse came out on the wrong side of a 12-goal (7-5) blockbuster. There was a quiet satisfaction in edging the previously unbeaten Clifton College side in the season’s penultimate match before being thoroughly undone by Hilton on Beckingham’s in the season finale.
Ben’s hockey career began in grade 4 or thereabouts: “As far back as I can remember I played hockey, but I think it was in grade 4 at Clifton Durban that I started to love it. A defining year for me was grade 6 when coach Mr Glenn Jones included me in the Clifton Prep First XI. His love for the game and passion for coaching us really sparked something in me. I enjoyed his intensity and feel like I still feed off that today.
“I’ve had so many brilliant coaches at school, at the various age-group Hockey Nationals and in the SA squads. but Mr Glenn Jones is the one who really moved the needle early on for me.”
Family and friends have, and still are, playing a pivotal role in the Ben Rebeck Hockey Success Story:
“My mom and dad have been incredibly supportive so far. They’ve hardly missed a game. My dad finds it hard to sit still during a match so they usually find standing room somewhere. They keep telling me they love watching me play, whatever the result. That means a lot. They feel the same about my sister, Sophie – she’s in this year’s KZN Inland U16B team.
“My parents’ approach has helped Sophie and I to keep a healthy perspective on things and grow our love for sport. Also, the matrics in last year’s Michaelhouse first XI were brilliant in making me feel an important part of the team. Knowing they backed me was a big plus. Fortunately I haven’t had a major injury and I know that if I keep working on my game and fitness, my chances of getting injured are minimised.
Ben’s final thoughts on one of his standout skills: “I aim for 100% of penalty corner drag-flicks to be on target – and then to convert the majority into goals. My success rate percentage is on the up, which is good, but I’m not satisfied. There’s no question that the more balls I flick in training during the week the more speed and accuracy I get in the next match.
“I find it’s a bit like a golf swing – you have to go to the range.”
Well said, Ben. Your combination of humbleness, modesty and respect, self-confidence and ambition will stand you in good stead.
KZN10.com wishes you all the best.
BEN REBECK SELECTIONS
At Clifton Prep in Durban
KZN Coastal teams through to U13
KZN Inland U14
KZN Inland U16A (2 consecutive years)
SA U16 selection 2016 & 2017
KZN Inland U18A
2018 SA U17 High Performance squad
2019: Watch this space…
* Kearsney Hockey Club (2017 Belgotex Greenfields Elite Club Challenge)