(Photo: FIH)

Over 1000 hockey players have descended on the KwaZulu-Natal capital city for three days of fun with old friends and former rivals in one of the biggest events of its kind in the southern hemisphere, writes Jonathan Cook.

The annual Time Freight South African Masters will take place on nine hockey turfs and grass pitches in Pietermaritzburg from Thursday to Saturday and brings together 66 men’s and women’s provincial teams from all over South Africa as well as Namibia and Zimbabwe.

There are 43 men’s teams and 23 women’s sides in this mega-event, with the criteria being that the men’s players have to be a minimum 35 years of age and the women a minimum 32 years of age.

The men will play in seven pools with six teams in each pool, with one pool having an extra team. The women will play in four pools with six in each pool, while one pool will have five teams.

Approximately 170 matches will be played over the three days with the action starting at 8 am at some venues and finishing as late as 8 pm at other venues.

The matches will be played at the University of KZN Greenfields Turf as well as their grass pitches, the AB Jackson Greenfields Turf, Hilton College, PMB Girls’ High School (GHS), Maritzburg College, The Wykeham Collegiate, Epworth, St John’s and Collegians Club.

There is only a winner in the men’s and women’s Colts division and in this competition the likes of former South Africa star Mike Cullen, SA goalkeeper Gregor Meier, SA defender Grant von Mayer in the KZN Colts team, as well as the likes of former SA players Kevin Chree of Eastern Province Colts and Steve Evans of Western Province can be seen in action. The older players do not play in a competition format.

There is an added incentive for the players as squads will be picked with the hope of sending approximately six South African teams to the World Masters tournament next year.

The World Masters will coincide with the men’s and women’s 2014 Hockey World Cups taking place at the same time and in the same city, The Hague, in The Netherlands. 

Source: South African Hockey Association