THANDO CELE
The Premier Hockey League (PHL) is South African hockey’s newest hockey competition, with a format that’s been created to transform the sport in the country.

From an interest, participation and performance perspective, the PHL will be the first hockey competition to place both men and women on equal footing in terms of coverage and remuneration. It will form a key part of the South African Hockey Association’s (SAHA) high performance pipeline which is aimed at better equipping South Africa’s national men’s and women’s teams for international competition.

The inaugural tournament runs over four weekends from 3-25 September at the Randburg Astro in Johannesburg. There are six men’s and six women’s franchise teams, owned by SAHA, that will play each other once in a league stage before the top four teams progress to the semi-finals.

The PHL features South Africa’s top talents, with TuksHockey being represented in the men’s and women’s teams. Nicolene Terblanche (SA women’s hockey captain and TuksHockey manager), Phumelela Mbande, Grant Glutz, Nicholas Berichon, Stephen Cant, Ross Gonsalves, Estiaan Kriek, Amy Etherington, Natalie Esteves and Charné Martell are among the UP representatives. Esteves shared her excitement about her involvement in the PHL so far and said, “I’ve been truly blown away by the PHL. It’s been one of the most incredible hockey events I’ve been involved in.” She went on to comment about the impact the tournament will have on TuksHockey specifically, saying, “TuksHockey has done really well in the past year and finished second in our USSA tournament. This shows the quality of our players, and explains why so many of them have been drafted in PHL teams. By being involved in such a tough competition, we are given exposure beyond a varsity level and that pushes us to be better on a national level.”

Two of the twelve participating teams will be the SA u/21 men’s and SA u/21 women’s national teams. This is to prepare the national age group teams for the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH) Junior World Cup that will take place later this year. The SA u/21 men’s team will play as the Golden Gate Gladiators, and the SA u/21 women’s team will play as the Namaqualand Daisies.

Supersport has an exclusive five-year deal to broadcast selected matches from the PHL. The 2016 tournament will see 24 of the 40 PHL games (including all semi-finals and both finals) broadcast live across all Supersport platforms. This includes television, mobile, and online throughout sub-Saharan Africa. A further eight PHL games will be exclusively streamed live on the Supersport website and will be repeated, on a delayed basis, on selected Supersport broadcast channels.

Hockey in South Africa has suffered its fair share of disappointment in 2016 as neither of the national senior teams qualified for this year’s Rio Olympics. Both teams won the African Championships in Randburg last year, which earned them Olympic qualification according to the International Olympic Committee and FIH criteria. However, The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee did not allow the teams to take part, strictly demanding a continental qualification. The PHL hopes to serve as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and reposition the sport for further development that focuses on 2018 World Cup qualification.

 

Photo: Roxy Paans.

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