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SA keeps it in the family for underwater hockey champs

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The national Junior underwater hockey squad travelling to the World Championships in Hobart, Australia, is very much a family affair!

Four teams will represent South Africa in the World Championships from 13-22 July.

The U19 men and women and U23 Men and women are all well-prepared and have worked hard for gold or at least podium finishes Down Under.

Heine Engelbrecht, president of the SA Junior underwater hockey federation, is going with his two sons, Eckhardt and Elrich, who both play in the U23 men’s team.  Elrich (U23 captain) was part of the U19 men’s team that won gold in the Netherlands in 2011, while Eckhardt is hoping to get his first World Championship medal (older brothers Dieter and Reinhardt have also represented SA and won medals).

Kevin Langston is going as official SA referee with his two daughters Kiandra (U19 gold medallist in Spain two years ago) and Olivia (new cap), who play together in the U19 women’s team. The sisters hope to stand on the podium together this time.

Thea Rothman (U19 bronze in Hungary 2013) returns to the SA team after taking some time off, and as in 2013, her brother Nicholas is also in the SA squad, this time in the U23 men’s team.

Elmar Cilliers from Rustenburg played in the U19 men’s team in 2015 and is now playing for the U23 men’s team in Hobart. His brother, Michel, is a new cap in the U19 men’s team.

Joel and Luke Hanner from Border are both new caps in the U19 men’s team, and with the eight new caps in that team they worked hard for a podium place at their first Worlds.

U23 women’s captain, Eleanor de Kock, is one of the most experienced players in the squad. She’s joined in the squad by her dad, Johann de Kock, the coach for the U19 men’s team. Eleanor won silver in the Netherlands (2011), bronze in Hungary (2013) and gold in Spain (2015 as captain), all for the U19 women’s team. She also won gold as part of the women’s’ elite team in Stellenbosch in 2016. It’s Johann’s second outing as U19 men’s coach and he hopes to add a coaching medal to the family’s impressive collection.

Cameron Stephen is a member of the men’s U23 team and mom Linda is the SA squad manager without whom no-one would be going to Hobart. Both Linda and Cameron were also part of the 2015 squad in Spain.

Austin Elferink (Gauteng) is another new cap in the U19 men’s team. He’s going with sister Jordynne, who won gold as part of the U19 women’s team in Spain. Jordynne is now one of the five U19 world champions in the U23 team. They have worked hard to repeat their U19 success in the U23 league.

Mathieu Graaff  is in the U23 men’s team after playing U19 for SA in 2015. His sister, Marine, is a new cap for Gauteng in the U19 women’s team.

Helen van Rhyn (Boland and Maties) won bronze in 2013 and gold in 2015. She hopes to share the experience of standing on the podium at the World Championships with her sister Lize (another of the five new caps in the U19 women’s side).

Captain of the U19 women’s side, Calista Pake, also won gold in Spain and bronze in Hungary. Like twice before, her brother Zinzan (gold in 2011) is also part of the SA squad, this time in the U23 men’s team.

Derek Fitzgerald (KZN) is joined at his second World Championships by his sister Nicole. She is one of the two new caps in the U23 women’s team. Derek also plays U23 this year.

In addition to this, the SA squad and the underwater hockey community functions as one big family with tight bonds within teams, but also within the sport as a whole.

The squad has worked hard for some good results in Australia and hope to make SA proud and get more support for the sport as well as for them as individuals.

In the picture SA’s Zandre Coetzee (No11) in action against New Zealand at last year’s world championships in Stellenbosch


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