Jacki Mohlaba, a Grade 11 student at El Shaddai Christian School, has secured the minnow school a very unique hat trick. He is the school’s third South African U/18 A field hockey player in the space of three years. In 2012 Beatrix Westdyk and Tarryn Glasby were included in the SA Girls U/18 A team. The school does not have its own sports fields let alone an astroturf!
Jacki, along with four other Northern District players, was selected for the U/18 WP A Boys Hockey Team that played in the Inter Provincial Tournament [IPT] in Pietermaritzburg during the first week of the July holidays. The Province boys, unbeaten at the IPT and winning 7 out of 7 games, were crowned National U/18 Champions. They beat KZN Coastals 3-2 in the final.
At the conclusion of the IPT Jacki, along with six other WP players, was selected to play for the SA U/18 Team in a three match test series against Australia. Jacki recalls that to have shared this moment with his Dad, Dr Garish Mohlaba, was incredibly special. The sheer joy of singing the national anthem in front of a full-house home crowd, Jacki continues, was also utterly memorable.
The SA U/18 Boys’ Team, with only four days of preparation against an Aussie team selected in August 2013, nevertheless delivered three impressive performances in the series. In the first game SA went down 4-1 sadly squandering countless missed opportunities and a penalty stroke save against them while the score was at 0-0.
During the second game a very lively home crowd spurred the South Africans on to a 3-2 win to tie the series. Headed into the final game, both teams were aware of the fact that a South African boys or men’s hockey team had never won a test series against the Aussies. The SA U/18 Boys’ Team was hungry to be a part of history but, alas, it wasn’t to be. The visitors led 2-1 for most of the second half and scored a third goal at the death killing all hopes of a historic South African win. With their 3-1 victory the Aussies secured a narrow series win.
“Despite coming away with a series defeat,” says Jacki, “we were very proud of the manner in which we approached and played each game, and the experience as a whole was once in a lifetime; you only get to make your international début once! I felt so honoured to be a part of this talented team, and look forward to hopefully meeting up with some of the lads again in senior teams at major tournaments.”
Jacki started playing 1st team hockey for El Shaddai Christian School [ESCS] midway through Grade 8 in 2011. The ESCS First Eleven won the U/19 Boys Shield event that year. In 2013 Jacki was awarded the First Eleven’s Player of the Year and also the ESCS Sportsman of the Year.
Much of Jacki’s success on the hockey field can be attributed to his splendid and speedy indoor hockey skills. Exquisite close control, hand-eye deftness and resilient retention of the ball are but three facets of Jacki’s vast and burgeoning hockey repertoire. He has played top flight inter-provincial PSi [Pro Series indoor] Hockey since 2009 until the present and was selected for the PSi All Stars Series team for four consecutive years. In April this year he made his international indoor début playing for the U/17 SA Indoor Team in a three match series against a Namibian U/18 side.
Australian defender and 2011 International Hockey Federation [FIH] Young Player of the Year, Matthew Swann, is a player Jacki greatly admires and hopes to play against in the near future. Swann won Bronze at the 2012 London Olympics and Gold at the 2014 FIH Men’s World Cup held in The Netherlands earlier this year. Jacki is swift to acknowledge his various coaches for their dedicated mentoring, namely, Jody Erasmus, Darryl Christians, Miguel Edwards, Fareed Abrahams, Shudley Hendricks, Caryn Maart, Robert Goslett, Jason Mulder, Erith Budge, Jaco Maree, Josh Nel, Lelynd Natus, Peter Sawers and Les Ryan. He- sincerely thanks the ESCS Boys First Eleven Hockey Team for their exuberant camaraderie, and, of course, his loving family for their invaluable support. Special thanks also to Jacki’s generous sponsors Tayla Sportswear and Gryphon Hockey.