Namibia Closing the Gap On SA

Namibia’s men and women’s indoor hockey teams both lost all their matches in an official Test series’ against South Africa last weekend, but despite the one-sided score lines, the series was a great success.

South Africa beat Namibia 5-0 in the men’s series and 4-0 in the women’s series which took place on 12 and 13 July in Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

Namibia’s Siabonga Martins and Maxie Smith won the men and women’s Player of the Series awards, while South Africa agreed that it should become an annual Test series.

South Africa had invited Namibia for the Test series, which received official international status, to help them prepare for next year’s Indoor World Cup, but Namibia nearly did not make it due to a lack of funds.

The Namibia Hockey Union had informed the teams that there were no funds for the tour, but the respective team coaches took matters into their own hands to raise money for the tour.

“I refused to accept that there was no money for the tour, so I did some networking and managed to raise some money, and took a team of ten men down to Natal. I could not refuse an offer to play five tests against the Boks,” the men’s coach Trevor Cormack said, adding that they travelled with their own transport by road to South Africa.

Due to the lack of funds and the short notice of the tour, Namibia could not field their gest sides and sent 10 men and eight women, which was below the normal complement of 12 players per national team.

The women’s team managed to fly down, but the men’s team went by road and arrived in Pietermaritzburg after a 20-hour drive about four hours before the start of the first Test. The players just unpacked and loosened up at the venue before going on to the pitch to take on the African champions, who had just completed a week-long training camp, in their own backyard.

South Africa comfortably won the first Test 12-1, and things did not get better for Namibia as they lost the ensuing five Tests, 10-4, 12-3, 12-4 and 16-1, but Cormack said Namibia did their country proud.

“I wasn’t focussing on the results – my main aim was to hold the Boks and to bring some of our younger players into the senior squad to give them international experience – and I was not going to jeopardise that opportunity for the sake of a few goals,” he said.

“As a coach, I was proud of the boys and they did their country proud. They earned a lot of respect from the South Africans for being there and for our diehard character on the field… If we have our gest team and are well prepared we will definitely hold our own against the Boks,” he added.

Some of the younger players who shone included Ernest Jacobs who was Namibia’s top scorer with six goals, and 16-year-old Tyler Adkins who scored his first international goal on his debut for his country.

Siabonga Martins, who captained the side, also excelled, even covering as a ‘kicking back’ after goalkeeper DJ Strauss was injured in the final Test, and was a popular winner of the Player of the Series award.

“Afterwards the South African management told me that Sia was one of four players selected for the award, but after his brilliant performance as a kicking back in the final Test, they decided to award the prize to him,” Cormack said.

The women’s team fared relatively better, losing their four test matches 4-2, 5-1, 4-0 and 2-0. Maggie Mengo and Marcia Venter scored for Namibia in the second Test, while Venter scored in the third Test.

Coach Jeanne Davin was proud of their performances, saying they were closing the gap on South Africa.

“We provided excellent competition and are closing the gap on South Africa. In the first Test we were level 0-0 at half time, but then they put on fresh players and won the Test 4-2. We had many opportunities but could not score and it was close in all the Tests,” she said.

“We were competitive in all the matches and South Africa confirmed that it will become an annual Test series – there was even a trophy up for grabs while the tournament was officially sanctioned by the International Hockey Federation,” she said.

Source : The Namibian