Selborne College first team coach KJ Friend believes his side’s clash against Bloemfontein’s powerhouse school, Grey College, will physically and mentally be the toughest game of their season as the two giants prepare to meet on Friday night in the Free State.
The team from East London has had a promising start to the season, building momentum and team cohesion during pre-season. Early in the season, they have shown glimpses of a side gelling together under the leadership of Ben van der Merwe.
“It’s been a good pre-season; we had a good buildup, and there’s a good team culture, which has contributed to a good team environment,” said Friend, speaking to Super Sport Schools.
“We went into our first games well prepared and had a successful pre-season festival at the Tony Godding Festival, where we won 3/4 games against Parel Vallei (5-2), Voortrekker (5-0), and Woodridge (3-1).”
After a successful home festival, the side went on tour to the Netherlands, where they won all six of their matches before playing out a one-all draw against Pearson from Gqeberha in their first derby of the year.
They quickly rectified that draw when they claimed the big scalp of Queens College (3-1) in the last quarter in what was Queens 165th reunion two weeks ago. The coach revealed how much of a confidence booster that victory was for the team.
“We knew that Queens was going to be a tough game for us,” he said.
“Every year, they always come running hard at us, and they were never going to stop, especially in their reunion.” “For us, we just made sure we kept it tight and closed off the game towards the end.”
Without a doubt, Selborne is one of the few fortunate sides to have kept the bulk of their senior players from the previous season.
Experience has come in handy so far, with a mixture of old and new in the starting 11. KJ is adamant that the experience and a good run that saw them finish third in the Hibbert Shield Hockey Festival will come in handy this weekend as they face arguably their toughest opponents in the calendar year.
“Physically, it’s the toughest game of the season, and Grey is always a competitive side no matter what year,” added KJ.
“However, we come off a good tournament at the Hibbert Shield Hockey Festival in Gqeberha, where we played six games and came third out of 12 teams.”
“So, we’re taking that energy and that experience from that tournament into the Grey match, and we just need to make sure we’re physically and mentally prepared,” he ended.
For Grey College, the clash will again be an opportunity to stake their claim against another Eastern Cape side early in the year.
After recording a 60%-win rate in the pre-season Nomads Hockey Festival hosted in Gqeberha, the Free State side went on a further rough patch as they lost three of their five matches at the KES Easter Hockey Festival.
However, Director of Hockey Wayne Coetzee says the side has shown improvements in the weeks gone by, and the boys are fully committed to the program.
“We have enjoyed the season so far; like all seasons, it has had its challenges, and the Grey Boys have allowed themselves to grow into young men,” he said.
“They are fully committed to working hard and improving their talents every day.”
Coetzee’s side will be looking to send Selborne home with nothing to show; he believes the team is ready and preparations couldn’t have gone better.
“The boys have worked hard this week and are eager to show off the talents that they were blessed with.”
“We have a well-balanced team that will do anything to see one another succeed.” “It truly is a privilege to be working with these young men,” he concluded.
Kick-off between the two sides is at 19:00.
Selborne College: Charlie Caswell, Zenzo Xawuka, Daniel Gaylard, Shane Stagg, Ben van der Merwe (captain), Masibulela Siswana, Tre Gilbert, Murray Kemp, Riley Boardman, James Carr, Daniel Sirgel, Lunga Malusi, Jaques van der Merwe, Waeden Plaatjes.
Grey College: Roan Janse van Rensburg (captain), Eben Joubert (vice-captain), Gerrie Greyling, Jayden Leech, Jordan Verster, Wian du Plooy, Duncker Hohls, Dayne Kitching (vice-captain), Samu Lephoto, Luke Mosala, Dunrich Hoffmann, AC Delport, Handre van Staden, MJ Bam, Botha Barnard, Ayanda Ngxaki.