Jonathan Cook
2 minute read
17 May 2014
7:10 am

SA’s Swanepoel a man on a mission

Jonathan Cook

One of the South Africa men's hockey team players to watch at Hockey World Cup 2014 in the Netherlands, now just a fortnight away, is young University of Stellenbosch student Dylan Swanepoel.

Dylan Swanepoel. Picture: Rodrigo Jaramillo.

Ask South African women’s hockey team assistant coach Kurt Cerfontyne, who coached the Maties student for two years.

“He is a technically gifted player and a fierce competitor who leaves nothing out there on the pitch. Dylan’s commitment is second to none, which is evident in his work ethic during training and matches. He is a natural leader, which accounts for his organisational ability in central defence. He is composed under pressure and possesses the ability to break the gainline from a defensive position and I have no doubt he will develop into a world-class player.”

For Swanepoel, news of his selection was sweet. “I was relaxing with my girlfriend Isabel when I received an e-mail from SA head coach Fabian Gregory telling me I was included in the team.”

His mission is simple. “I want to leave the World Cup saying I contributed in every game and training session. I do not want to be a young player just going for the experience. I aim to make a big contribution to the team.”

Swanepoel is not allowing the fact that SA, due to funding constraints, will have spent less time together by far than any other side, get him down.

The B.Comm management science student, now just three years out of school is, along with his team-mates, on a conditioning programme “that we all have to be doing until we get to camp”.

With 16 Tests under his belt since his debut at the Africa Cup in Nairobi, Kenya late last year, Swanepoel has fulfilled one dream. “I am still excited and grateful. It had been my goal to make this team, even though it seemed so far away at the time I set my mind to achieving it.”

The hunger is palpable, despite the sport’s amateur status, which cripples so many promising careers due to the demands of needing to earn an income – most employers are not happy with long months away from work, but there is some money to be had for elite players.

“I want to play in Europe once my studies are complete, so I would like to be playing professionally in Europe while representing South Africa,” he said.

The Commonwealth Games in Scotland in July; and the Rio 2016 Olympics; there is much to play for and much to look forward to. Is he up for the challenge?

“Yes. Although this year has already been so busy, I am still feeling fresh and motivated. I am in good condition physically so everything is in place at the moment and I am ready.”

The SA team gather for two days in Johannesburg from tomorrow before leaving for 10 days’ intensive training in the Netherlands on Tuesday.