How South African Men’s Hockey Team Thrived Under Coach Garreth Ewing!

Garreth Ewing has earned a lot of respect as coach of the South African Men’s Hockey team – coaching a lesser nation (a side ranked outside the top-15) has its own share of challenges and nobody knows it better than the 48-year-old coach. The recent eyeballs-grabbing decision of Garreth Ewing to quit as South African Men’s Hockey Team coach just nine weeks for the 2023 Men’s World Cup has clearly come as a surprise for not just the South African hockey fraternity but also for the hockey world at large.

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The coaching credentials of Garreth Ewing even attracted the attention of the FIH – the South African coach was one of the finalists for the FIH Coach of the Year award. Ewing can take a lot of credit for the way South African Men’s Hockey team have grown in stature so much so that no top international side would afford to treat them as pushovers despite their world ranking of 16. Under Garreth Ewing, South Africa may have finished 10th at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and that statistical information would never a true reflection of what they showcased at the marquee event. Their ability to surprise the best of teams was known to all by the time the Olympics were over – they gave mighty Netherlands a scare when they lapped up a 3-0 lead in the first eighteen minutes of play before the Dutch rebounded in the second half to pull through 5-3.

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South Africa brought their A-game against former champions Germany and twice came from behind to pull off a stellar 4-3 win. There was another ‘coaching high’ for Ewing at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where South Africa reached the semifinals – their first semi-final appearance in 20 years in the 2022 Commonwealth Games. What they did to Germany at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics they repeated the same against New Zealand in the Commonwealth Games, pulling off a shocking 4-3 win to show the tournament exit door to the Black Sticks.

Ewing, who was appointed South African Men’s Hockey team in May 2019 has built a side that operates as a well-oiled unit with a nice mix of youngsters and experienced players. The likes of drag-flicker Matthew Guise-Brown, Timmoth Drummond and Jethro Ethro provided a settled look to their deep defence. Nicholas Spooner, Taine Paton man the midfield while the young Cassiem brothers – Dayaan and Mustapha alongside Nqobile Ntuli and Keenan Horne provide more thrust to their forwardline.

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It may be worth recalling that Ewing’s contribution to South African hockey is immense – he has been serving in South African hockey in various capacities since 2004. Ewing has performed various roles as selector, video analyst, team manager, high performance trainer,assistant coach as well as Head Coach of South Africa Under 21 and it was under him South Africa colts finished 10th at the 2016 Junior Men’s Hockey World Cup in Lucknow.

There is little doubt that South Africa would miss his presence at the FIH Nations Cup as well as at the 2023 World Cup. For interim head coach Cheslyn Gie it won’t be easy at all as he takes over from Ewing for the FIH Nations Cup and the World Cup.