When Ayanda Nhlapo converted the final one-on-one in the shoot out that decided the Boden Trophy competition, giving King Edward VII School victory over Jeppe, it was the latest chapter in a remarkable hockey development story.
Ayanda is at the school on a TAG Foundation bursary, initiated by master in charge, Mr Damata, but his hockey background began on a disused tennis court in Vanderbijl Park where his father, Nicholas Dube, has been running a hockey and cricket programme for the township boys since 2010.
The programme, called Sicelo, has designed to keep the boys off the streets and out of trouble, but they have developed to the extent that they now play matches against schools in Joburg, including entering the Boden and Aitken tournaments.
And it was while playing for Sicelo as a grade 7 boy in the under-15 Boden Trophy that Mr Damata saw him and approached his father explaining that he could be given the chance to grow as a person and a hockey player at KES, and that financial assistance was available.
“I knew that it was a good school, with good facilities, good academics and sport, and that I was fortunate to be offered this opportunity,” he said.
Ayanda is in School House and hostel life is a new experience for him. “It’s very different from home. You are forced to do your school work, but you have your friends around you all the time, and we are treated very well. I am really enjoying it.”
He played cricket for the first time this year, for the under-15F team and, although he is still learning the game, he enjoyed it.
In the hockey season he played for the school’s under-16B team – which is in effect the under-15A team as there is no under-15 age group – and the team did very well. At this stage of the season they have played 14 games and only lost twice, to Maritzburg College and St David’s, and that Boden Trophy win has been the highlight.
“The best thing about hockey is that my friends are in the team,” he said. “We get great support from the rest of the school and there is a good team spirit.”
Academically, he says, he is average, but the grade 12s in the hostel are pushing him to try harder and there is always help at hand.
There are still a few hockey matches next term and, after that, he is looking forward to athletics season. “I’m quite fast,” he said, “and I’m going to try out for the 100m, 200m and long jump.”
He has a cool head in a penalty shoot out too, which brought success and glory to the under-15s in the Boden Trophy.