SuperSport Schools Plus

Phume and Dutton shine as Southerns are crowned u18 champions

By CS Chiwanza , in Hockey | Featured Hockey | News , at 2024-06-21 Tags: , , ,

Reabitswe Phume scores the sudden death penalty to help Southerns lift title. Credit: TeamPhotoSAReabitswe Phume and Ilanie Dutton starred in the u18 SASHOC National Week final to help Southern Gauteng A lift the Sandra Jordaan Trophy in Bloemfontein on Friday.

Southerns edged out Northern Gauteng A 4-3 in a tense penalty shootout, which was decided by sudden death strokes. The sides were level at 2-2 after regulation time.

With the win, Southerns ended a 14-year wait for the title. When last they lifted the coveted trophy, their captain, Phume, was only three years old.

Relive the action on SuperSport Schools

Never in the history of the tournament has a province been as dominant as Gauteng was in Bloemfontein. Three teams from the province made the semifinals: It was, however, Natasha le Roux‘s Southerns A team, which set the pace throughout the event.

Prior to the final, Southerns had scored 18 goals without conceding one. They had also committed so few fouls and mistakes that opposition teams hadn’t tallied even a handful of penalty corners against them.

While proud of her side’s achievements in the lead-up to the title-decider, Le Roux hoped that her team would not turn into one of those outfits that sweeps all of their games only to lose in the final. Fortunately, for, her, they were not.

Two of the main reasons for Southerns’ success were the team’s talent and discipline.

“We have been rock-solid as a unit. So, we have been a good defence and a solid unit. The defence and midfield were strong,” Le Roux said after the final.

“Every player is going to make a mistake at some stage, and when one slipped there was always someone else to cover. They were always there for each other, cleaning up after the next player. We just had to back our buddy, make her look good because she also makes us look good.”

That mindset did not happen overnight. It was something that the players worked on game by game throughout the SASHOC National Week. They had to learn how to play with and for each other. Despite recording positive results right off the bat, Southerns had some teething problems in their first match.

“One word our coach kept repeating was click, that we needed to click, so we just wanted to click. I think that’s what we did in the final,” captain Reabitswe Phume said. “The teamwork has been phenomenal and, if you look at our scorers, we have a variety, which shows a team working together and the talent we have in the side.”

In the final, Southerns opened their account through Emily Weaver seven minutes into the first chukka. They headed into the contest with the knowledge that they had beaten Northerns earlier in the tournament, winning 3-0 in their second match on the opening day.

However, they were not about to let that victory undermine their title aspirations. They had seen Northerns upset a strong KwaZulu-Natal Coastal team in the semi-finals.

Iliane Duttomn saving the last penalty stroke to help Southerns win the title. Credit: TeamPhotoSAAfter scoring the contest’s first goal, Southerns fought for every possession and drove forward looking for a second goal. They got it through Amber Fairon, their leading goal scorer and the tournament’s third-most prolific striker, in the 44th minute.

Their two-goal cushion didn’t last long, however, as Northerns struck back immediately after the final chukka had started.

In the last five minutes, Southerns was reduced to 10 players, and their opponents removed their goalkeeper for an extra forward as they went in search of an equaliser. Coach Sinoxolo Mbekeni’s charges piled on the pressure. They were rewarded with a penalty corner in the final minute, and they converted it.

With the teams level at 2-2, the contest went to a penalty shootout.

“I think if you want to make it difficult for yourself, that is the way to do it. You go a man down. Rightfully so, Northerns pulled their goalie and then we started running in the midfield, instead of running in the corners or just getting it away from the box,” a relieved Le Roux said after the shootout.

“Kudos to Northerns for a very good final and, secondly, for using their opportunities. I thought we had it with a minute left and, all of a sudden, we had to fight for it in sudden death.”

Northerns scored from the first stroke. However, Ilanie Dutton saved the next two to keep her side in the contest.

Southerns scored their first two, missed the next two, and converted the last one, to send the shootout to sudden death. Phume, who had converted her first stroke, made no mistake the second time around, and Dutton kept Danielle McCann’s effort out to secure her side the win.

“You have to stay focused throughout the whole game and throughout the whole tournament. You must be in the game all the time, keeping your head in the game, and keeping your eye on the ball every time. You also need to keep your composure,” Dutton said.

“For that, I tell myself just to enjoy it. It’s a very stressful situation and a lot of pressure, but you have to believe in yourself and your teammates to score, as well. Back yourself and go all out,” she reckoned.

“I am at a loss for words. I am so proud of these girls. I am walking away a happy captain,” an elated Phume said.

Her emotions were shared by coach Natasha le Roux. Together, they had helped to bring a 14-year wait to an end.

CS Chiwanza
error: Sorry ol' chap, those shenanigans are not permissible.