Crash and burn

 

Defending Varsity Women’s Hockey champions, University of Johannesburg (UJ) had a disastrous start in their quest to defend their title after only managing fifth place in the first leg of the 2017 tournament held at the Maties Astro in Stellenbosch from 5 to 8 May.

UJ found themselves trailing early on after losing their opening encounter 4–2 to hosts Maties who swept past the competition in a resounding display of dominance to finish top of the log with four wins from four.

Read: UJ prepare for title defence in Varsity Women’s Hockey 2017

After once again coming up short, this time to North-West University (NWU) Pukke, in the second round, the Joburg outfit, however, salvaged some pride as they registered their first and only win of their Stellenbosch assignment; a thumping 8–2 victory over a lowly (University of KwaZulu-Natal) UKZN side in the third round.

Acknowledging that there was some strong competition on display, UJ hockey manager, Elize le Roux, said the team was determined to keep up the fight when they head out to Potchefstroom to contest the second leg.

UJ will look for a change in fortunes before the play-offs on 22 May, which will determine which teams line up against each other in the final on 22 May.

They are six points adrift of fourth-placed NWU Pukke.

Read: Aphiwe Dyantyi enjoys a dream season in the 2017 Varsity Cup

Le Roux, however, said the team took time to reflect on their performances. “This year the competition is very strong,” she said.

“Due to the format of the competition, the break gives you a chance for reflection and time to regroup. There are possibly four teams so far showing top-four status, but this can change at any stage due to the nature of sport.”

Maties is the only unbeaten team in the competition and led the log with 12 points, followed by (University of Pretoria) UP Tuks, Wits and NWU Pukke on nine points apiece. UJ, (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) NMMU Madibaz and (University of Free State) UFS Kovsies are all grouped on three points.

Despite the poor showing, Le Roux said the spirit in the camp remained positive. “We have some new staff and players, so we have been working further on the players’ belief in the processes we are putting forward. We want to create a belief in the brand and in what we want to achieve.” She added.

Read: Thulas Nxesi, new Minister of Sport and Recreation, meets with the South African Rugby Union (Saru) to discuss possible Rugby World Cup 2023 bid

“We don’t want to give away anything in terms of our strategy, but we are ready to make a big effort.”

Commenting on the standard of women’s hockey, Le Roux said that it had risen since players were increasingly being exposed to tournaments such as Varsity Hockey and the Premier Hockey League (PHL). “Playing the sport at every level gives you so much more exposure and players pick up invaluable game time,” she said.

“Hockey is a growing sport, so such competitions increase the chances for the girls to develop in a competitive environment.”

Details: The second and final leg of Varsity Women’s Hockey 2017 takes place at the Puk Astro in Potchefstroom from 12 to 15 May. UJ will take on city rivals Wits in their fist game, before booking a date with UP Tuks and NMMU Madibaz on 13 and 14 May respectively.

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Tshepiso Mametela

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