EP hockey side hope to make impact

 ON THE HOP: Eastern Province hockey players, from left, Chad Cairncross, Michael Abrahams, Ignatius Malgraaf and Lyall Meyer warm up for the SA men's interprovincial, starting in Durban today. Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN
ON THE HOP: Eastern Province hockey players, from left, Chad Cairncross, Michael Abrahams, Ignatius Malgraaf and Lyall Meyer warm up for the SA men’s interprovincial, starting in Durban today. Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

DESPITE a late appointment to the post, Eastern Province men’s hockey coach Chris Hibbert is keen for his team to make an impact when the SA men’s interprovincial gets under way in Durban today.

The former South Africa goalkeeper only accepted the post in late June when it suddenly became vacant and he will be calling in the experience of his father, Brian, and EP U21 coach Gerrard Noah to assist him in Durban.

Having played and coached in England in recent years, Hibbert returned to South Africa to take up a post as director of sport at DSG in Grahamstown.

Looking ahead to the interprovincial, Hibbert said he felt there was enough talent in the EP side to do well and that they were targeting a spot in the top four.

“We will set some goals as a group when we are in Durban,” he said last week. “Some of these will be short term and will be result orientated, but others will be medium- and long-term goals as we need this squad to be focused on achieving results for EP at IPT every year, and not just in 2014.

“Saying that, we do obviously have our targets for this year, and we are aiming for a top-four finish. This is a step up from where EP has placed in recent years, so it will be a tough ask.”

Hibbert said it was a very short and tough tournament – five games in five days – and they had to win at least two or three pool games in order to qualify for the semis.

“We have Northerns first up [today] and this will largely decide as to whether or not we finish in the top four. We need a quality performance to beat them, which will then set us up to meet our goals for this tournament.”

EP then play Wits (Southern Gauteng B), which, Hibbert said, was a must-win game for them before taking on favourites and champions WP.

Although the preparations have not been ideal, Hibbert has been impressed with the commitment and work ethic of the squad members.

“The training sessions we have had as a team have been good. While in the ideal world we would be full time and training together every day, we don’t have that luxury, as players are still amateurs, and have work and study commitments.

“I am thoroughly enjoying the challenge of coaching the EP men’s team this year and have been trying to introduce some new concepts and skills to the players in the squad, while also preparing them for IPT.”

Hibbert is not new to the coaching game and has been in charge of senior men’s teams in the UK for the past seven years, including a spell as head coach of Southgate in the English Premier League.

The EP squad is:

Michael Abrahams, Joshua August, Jason Bigara, Chad Cairncross, Keith Daniel, Dean Ferreira, Jason Flanagan, Dale Jacobs, Ignatius Malgraaf, Jason Maclachlan, Lyall Meyer (captain), Steve Minne, Matthew Moser, Shawn Pautz, Dalan Phillips, Brendon Smith – Neale Emslie

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