University of Johannesburg hockey star Tyson Dlungwana has some long-term goals on his mind, but his immediate priority will be to confirm his prowess when he competes in the Africa Cup from Sunday.
The 20-year-old midfielder, who has nine tests under his belt, is a member of the South African senior squad who will be defending their title at the continental tournament in Ismailia, Egypt.
Having worked to improve his game in several areas, he said it was a massive honour to be chosen for his country.
“Being recognised at the highest level is actually pretty cool, because it gives you the feeling of knowing that the hard work has paid off,” said Dlungwana, who was named the age category sportsman of the year at the UJ Sports Gala awards function last week.
The second-year education student, who grew up in Maritzburg but now is in residence at UJ, said he had focused on a number of specific areas to ensure he grew as a player.
“Firstly, my one-on-one defensive work has improved as this was a weakness at one stage.
“Secondly, I have been working on my long-ball distribution, something I had ignored by not learning the basics at a young age. However, I am confident in that area so it’s safe to say I have it waxed now.”
Focusing on always being stronger and quicker than his opponent, the UJ star said he would need those qualities at the Africa Cup.
“Going to any country on this continent will always have its challenges, but ultimately the biggest test for us will be beating hosts Egypt,” he said.
“We will need to show the character to do to them what they did to us when they beat us (2-1) in the World League semi-finals in Johannesburg this year.”
Dlungwana wants to take his national representation to another level when the next Olympics roll around in 2020.
“My biggest goal ever since I started playing this sport seriously has been to represent South Africa at the Olympics in Tokyo,” he said. “Every year I feel I am a step closer, but only time will tell.”
The promising midfielder paid tribute to the UJ squad and his parents for his progression through the ranks.
“I must give big credit to my teammates, who continuously push me to be a better hockey player,” he said.
“My coaches, trainers and medical team are also a major part of my success, while my folks are my biggest fans. Without all of those people, none of this would have been possible.”