When gsport … for Girls! attended the end-of-tournament bash put on by SPAR following the Hockey Inter-Provincial Tournament just completed, Free State looked a little dazed.
The Team had just finished a gruelling series of contests, and the team conceded a huge 8 goals against a mighty Eastern Province in the pool stages.
But when approached for comment for this article, the team’s captain Pulane Mahlaku presented the picture of honour and dignity.
Mahlaku readily agreed to discuss just why winners carry on, sometimes years before the first victory rolls in.
gsport is proud to feature this valiant and inspirational woman, who talks of perseverance in the face of adversary.
Come on this journey, and learn about the strenghts of the women of Africa.
What position do you play?
How long have you been captain of Free State?
This year is the first year. It came as a surprise for me, as I found out about it in the newspapers.
I am lucky to have a coach and team who support me, it’s very nice, but the burden is sometimes difficult.
As captain, I must concentrate on my own game, but it’s even more important to be aware of the flow of the game, how the girls are playing, and I must always motivate the team.
But it’s something I’m proud of, and I’ll always do my best.
What is your greatest sporting achievement?
My highest achievement is to be selected twice for the top-20 squad in the Junior tournament of promising players.
I first achieved this in 1999 when I was in grade 11, and again in 2000.
Also, I was selected as the Free State woman hockey player of the year for 2002!
What was it like to lose on Saturday?
Our first game was against Border, and we played a good game. The second game, against Mynahs, was even more evenly-contested, and we eventually lost 2-1, that was frustrating!
Next up, we came across Eastern Province. They are one of the strongest teams in the B-Section, and we knew it was going to be extremely difficult.
We played well to only concede two goals in the first half, but then things started really going wrong, and EP went 8-0 up against us.
Still, this is not so bad, considering that the team only met up for two practices before the inter-provincial tournament began.
We only had four seniors in our squad, the rest were juniors. They tried hard and played well for their first year at this level, it was an important introduction for them, and I’ve got no doubt they’ll perform better next year.
In particular, I have to acknowledge our ‘keeper, Berne’ van Wyk, who played a great tournament.
How can Free State’s performance in the IPT be viewed positively?
The main positives include gaining vital match experience at this level, coming to Johannesburg, and having the opportunity of meeting talented athletes.
Even though we ended bottom of the B-Section log, Free State achieved many goals, we made important progress, and are keen to come back next year again to demonstrate our progress!
If we had more opportunity for practice, we would have done better, no doubt. But girls tried their best, and that’s what we achieved, and I’m very proud of my team.
The girls were very keen to learn. At breakfast on Saturday, we all sat down and spoke together, and we all agreed that we had learned, and had played our best.
The biggest positive is the way we played. Though the end score line was disappointing, it does not reflect our play. Next year we’ll cope better, particularly against the KZN Mynahs and Border.
We’ll be working on fitness, on skills, and we’ll be taking an opportunity to come together as a team.
What do you do when you’re not playing hockey?
I am a teacher at Brebner High School in Bloemfontein, and I teach business studies, and tourism.
I am also studying a BTech Sports Management, at the Central Univ. of Technology.
How long do you intend playing first-division hockey?
I’ll be around for four years! Don’t think I’ll stop playing easily. I’m only 24 years old, I’m going to be around for a while…
After that, I’ll stay involved in the game, perhaps as a coach at school, and possibly for clubs. I love working with kids.
What is the importance of playing sport?
Sport helps us to get away from stresses, and to look for the joy of life.
I love meeting many people, being competitive on the field, but playing for the enjoyment, and then there’s coaching!
The benefits of playing sport cannot be overstated!
How do you keep fit out of season?
I go to gym, do a little weights training, and cycling mostly.
Who are your sponsors?
I don’t have a sponsor at the moment. Last year Gryphon sponsored me a 50% discount on kit, which was great.
What would make your life as a hockey player better?
Getting more coaching clinics in Bloemfontein. There are so many talented kids in the townships, I would love to introduce the game to more kids.
Where do you live?
What do you do like to do for a party?
I like to go out for dinner, when I can. I don’t drink, so I like listening to music.
What is your favourite food?
Sweet stuff mostly, especially waffles with cream and lots of syrup.
For dinner I’ll choose ribs, or chicken schnitzel.
Who is the most important South African woman in sport?
The greatest mentor for me is (SABC Sport anchor) Carol Manana, she’s an inspiration.
Who is your favourite sports star?
I don’t have one star that I admire the most, I like to support all women who are involved in making South Africa’s sports scene better.
In particular, I admire the kids I’ve been able to interact with on a coaching basis, I learn so much from them, it’s a blessing for me!