Delighted with his selection to play in the Commonwealth Games, University of Johannesburg hockey star Gareth Heyns acknowledged they faced a tough challenge in Australia.
At No 15 in the world, South Africa will face many nations ranked higher than them, but Heyns said they had a lot to prove on the Gold Coast next month.
“We know it will be hard, but we have a group of guys pushing for chances all the time and it keeps everyone on their toes. This creates the best environment we could ask for.”
The 26-year-old student, who is busy with his masters in marketing, said the squad enjoyed a good mix of experience and youth.
“The guys that have been there before are always willing to help so that the rest of us can step up our own games,” said Heyns.
“We are a very hard-working and focused unit and I believe that this is definitely something that works in our favour.”
After years of dedication to the sport, Heyns said he was over the moon at having gained selection.
“I really didn’t think it was something that would happen, so when I found out I was going it was one of the happiest moments of my life.
“It has made all the hard work, long days and nights of training and difficult times worth it.”
Having grown up in Primrose in Johannesburg, where he still lives, Heyns took up the game of hockey 14 years ago.
“I started playing hockey properly when I was 12,” he said.
“The only reason I started was because of my brother, Kyle. He was at Jeppe High and I pretty much followed everything he did.”
Once he left school, he said UJ had provided the platform to compete at an elite level, while offering the opportunity to pursue his studies.
“The staff were always willing to help wherever they could to make the experience as easy and non-stressful as possible.
“I have made so many valuable friendships and memories here that I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way.”
With his family and friends his staunchest supporters, Heyns also paid tribute to UJ coach Garreth Ewing, under whose tutelage he has been playing since he was 15.