Despite their strong position in varsity hockey, the University of Johannesburg men’s and women’s teams are aware that they face a searching challenge in the University Sport South Africa (Ussa) tournament at Wits from July 4 to 8.
The men won their second straight Varsity Hockey title in the biennial competition this year to add to three straight Ussa titles from 2012 to 2014.
Coach Garreth Ewing said that they hoped to regain their position.
“We’ve done quite well in recent years, winning three in a row, but last year we came fifth so we are hoping to climb back up the table this year.
While the UJ women are the defending champions, hockey manager Elize le Roux said they would not be getting ahead of themselves.
“Though I would love to see them defend the title, there is a process in place to prepare and play each game on its merits. We have to first focus on our pool fixtures before worrying about a possible final.”
They had lost some key players from last year’s side, but Le Roux said UJ were fortunate to have retained the core of their team. They did however receive a blow recently when one of their top players, Carmen Smith, was ruled out due to an injury.
Le Roux said that due to the congested nature of the tournament, several factors were essential for success.
“Playing five days in a row, often with limited rest in-between, is challenging.
“That is why planning, the team environment and player management become vital,” she said.
Ewing said the UJ men had managed to retain a sense of continuity from the Varsity Hockey squad, which should stand them in good stead.
“We have three new players in Brad Robertson, James du Plessis and Luke Barnard. Leneal Jackson is injured, but otherwise it’s the same group as the Varsity Hockey squad.”
He said team ethic would be important in their push for success.
“Our strength is that everybody has a role to play.
“We are looking forward to the week. The tournament has a special atmosphere and it’s very competitive.”