|Honoured to be part of the national hockey set-up, Nelson Mandela University members Cheslyn Gie and Ignatius Malgraff will be flying the Madibaz flag high when the Africa Cup begins in Ismailia, Egypt, on Sunday.
The 24-year-old Malgraff, a striker with a healthy appetite for scoring, will extend his career in South African colours, while Gie will be assistant coach to interim national mentor Sheldon Rostron.
Malgraff has turned out for the national team on a number of occasions, including the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but said it remained an extremely proud moment to play in the green and gold.
“Being able to say that you are one of South Africa’s best hockey players is always good, but it keeps me humble and keeps me going,” said the East London-born player.
“There are many youngsters coming through the ranks with exceptional talent and that keeps us fairly older players on our toes. So receiving this recognition once again shows I’m still performing to the selectors’ standards.”
After going through a goal drought earlier this year, Malgraff said he had rediscovered his scoring touch and was determined to carry that form into the Africa Cup.
He has competed in the tournament previously and said it was never easy playing against African teams.
“The players are naturally physical and some tend to be aggressive on the field.
“Hosting the tournament a few years back gave us an advantage which certainly made things easier, but with the Africa Cup being held on foreign soil, we will have to be prepared for a few challenges.”
Long-serving Madibaz coach Gie has been on the management team several times this year and is delighted to continue that association.
“It is always a privilege to represent your country and I am excited to learn from Sheldon, who has a wealth of international experience,” he said.
He added that he planned to put the knowledge gained from previous tournaments to good use in Ismailia.
“Luckily I have been to a Junior Africa Cup before and I am aware of the conditions we will be facing in Egypt.”
Gie pointed out that they played against Egypt in the World League semi-finals a few months ago and felt they would be the South Africans’ main rivals.
“We will have to execute our set pieces better and capitalise on the opportunities we create.”
He said the squad backed themselves to defend their title, but understood they faced a stiff examination.
“The heat and humidity will definitely be a huge factor and normally traffic is congested, so our travel times and arrangements need to be carefully worked out.
“On the field, Egypt, Ghana and Kenya will definitely be strong opposition for us.”
He said the Africa Cup was important for South Africa as winning the title would guarantee them a place in the World Cup.