Having lost a number of senior players, University of Johannesburg will field a new-look men’s team when the Varsity Hockey tournament kicks off next weekend.
After the women held centre stage in 2017, the men’s version of the competition will take place this year, beginning with a round of four matches at Wits in Johannesburg from May 4 to 7.
Without the experience of players such as Gareth Heyns, Brynn Cleak and Taylor Dart, UJ hockey manager Elize le Roux said they had entered a rebuilding phase after winning the tournament in 2014 and 2016.
“Naturally, we would love to defend the title, but we are not looking past the first game,” said Le Roux.
“There is always pressure to perform, but we are trying keep the players focused on their plan rather than be influenced by any external expectations.”
The squad have been hard at work under experienced coach Garreth Ewing, using their league matches as part of their preparations.
“We have a mini camp planned this long weekend ahead of the competition next week,” added Le Roux.
As usual in varsity events of this nature there are a number of innovations which will test the teams.
“I think the men like the format. It gives running hockey a chance to be seen and the men play a faster-paced game in general.
“The power play and the goals systems mean you face the challenge of managing each game in a different way, according to the opposition.”
The power-play rule can be taken by one side at any stage of the game.
The side choosing to initiate the power play force the opposition to remove two players from the field for a short period. Any goal scored during the power play counts for two goals.