Getting used to playing a different format at the University Sport South Africa (USSA) hockey tournament will be one of the biggest challenges for the NMMU-Madibaz men’s and women’s teams in Johannesburg next week.
The annual varsity event will take place at Wits from Monday to Friday, with the men’s team particularly geared up to make an impression after featuring in the last two finals.
However, coach Cheslyn Gie said the major challenge would be adapting to the playing conditions adopted by USSA, where matches are played over four quarters of 15 minutes each.
“We don’t play that format in our EP league and we saw the effects of this in the Varsity Hockey competition earlier this year.
“The approach per quarter changes and we struggled to make the adjustment to the fast pace in the fourth.”
The Madibaz have also struggled to replace experienced players Jason Maclachlan and Dalan Phillips, who now coaches the women’s team.
After having not played much league hockey this year, the Madibaz held a two-week camp to prepare for the USSA week and Gie said they were shooting for at least the semifinals.
“In defence, our goalkeepers Chad Durrheim and Muzzamil Sheik will be key players, as well as captain Grant Kapp.
“Chad Cairncross is our drag-flicker and if he scores a few goals, we will be in with a very big chance. Up front our strikers Ignatius Malgraff and Cerezo Comerasmy are good as a combination.”
With EP not having sent a team to the interprovincial this year, Phillips said the Madibaz women had not had much competitive hockey and found themselves in a rebuilding phase.
“Although that is the case, each individual will have her own goals and will be aiming to compete in every match and to show constant improvement,” he said.
The women’s team have lost five players from last year, including former SA player Nicole Kemp and goalkeeper Saskia Cressey, but Phillips emphasised the biggest challenge would be adapting to the four-quarter format.