Hockey Tour of a lifetime to South Africa

Over the Summer holidays a squad of 26 students and budding hockey players, embarked on a tour of a lifetime to the wild lands of South Africa. Throughout their 2-week adventure, they would experience new cultures, come face to face with spectacular wildlife, and develop into two very potent hockey sides.

After a long overnight flight, they arrived in Johannesburg. Students went on to a high-intensity session with former South African international and hockey inspiration, Alistair Fredericks. This was their first opportunity to acclimatise to an altitude of about 1700m and gain advice from a man who knew the South African style of hockey all too well.

The following day the students visited the Lion and Rhino park where they were able to play with lion cubs as if they were kittens. They then visited the limestone mines, appropriately named the wonder caves! It appeared they took more away from the lions than expected as both teams produced ferocious performances against Helpmekaar College to gain two wins from two.

The next day, with everyone in high spirits, they headed to the women’s Hockey World League to see South Africa vs Japan. This was followed up by two terrific wins against Morningside Country Club (a second hat-trick for Joe Allen).

The next day they flew to Cape Town, and travelled up to the top of Table Mountain to take in some spectacular views of the port city.  They also visited an apartheid museum, where they were guided around some of the most impoverished areas. Students then found themselves learning how to dance and played some traditional Langa music, before having the chance to coach hockey to a group of Township children. The day ended with both teams extending our tour record to 6 wins out of 6 against Westerford High School.

After a visit to Stellenbosch University’s high-performance centre and a valiant performance from the development side against a strong Rondebosch side, tournament day had arrived. First up was Harrow School, Eltham College started out shaky but once they got into their stride they managed to win 2-1.

It wasn’t long until the next game but still managed to keep a high tempo with a large crowd very much against the Eltham College side and drew 2-2 with Pinelands High School. A pool recovery session lead by Mr Brown followed, and would become a routine for the boys post matches. Another confident win from the development side put them into day 2 of the tournament with lively enthusiasm.

In almost a repeat of the Harrow School match, the 1st XI brought home another 2-1 win against Somerset College after being 1-0 down early on. However, their unbeaten run came to an end when tired legs hit home in a frantic but high class defeat to Worcester Gim, 6-3.

The next morning was their last opportunity to make the top 2, with only one goal needed and the game at 1-1, an extra outfield player was brought on, and despite their attempts, they were heartbroken as Windhoek High School walked the ball into an empty net just before the final whistle. As a result, the boys finished a very respectable 4th in our group, a group where any of the top 4 teams could have come out as group winners!

After a well-deserved break, their last day of matches saw Seb Zane save the College in a penalty shoot-out and then despite a passionate 13th play-off, led from the front by George Jackson, they were unlucky to end with a 1-0 loss. However, this should not detract from a truly outstanding level of hockey from everyone throughout the tour.

The final days were spent being at one with nature in the Gondwana Game Reserve. A stunning and well-deserved end to a magnificent tour. Many thanks to Mr Thorogood, Mr Brown & Mr Giles for all their efforts in running such a superb