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24 May 2018 | in Field Hockey, NUSF News

Stunning end highlights South Africa’s university field hockey final

 

The University of Pretoria stunned favourites Stellenbosch University 5-0 in South Africa’s Varsity Cup field hockey final on Monday to land the biggest university hockey prize on offer in the country.

 

The Varsity Hockey tournament, which alternates between a male and female event each year, falls under the prestigious Varsity Sports programme in South Africa, under which ten different sporting codes are contested by top universities who battle it out for glory.

 

This year’s men’s hockey spectacle pitted eight of South Africa’s finest university sides against each other in a round robin phase in which each university played against each other, with the top four teams on the overall standings then advancing to the semi-finals. A “Power Play” initiative added an interesting element to each game this season, whereby each team was allowed to remove two opposition players from the field for three minutes, with any goal scored during that time period counting for two points.

 

The month-long tournament kicked off with a repeat of the 2016 men’s final as University of Pretoria – affectionately known as ‘Tuks’ – humbled reigning champions University of Johannesburg (UJ) 5-0 to signal their intent in the tournament, while Stellenbosch University – whose nickname is ‘Maties’ – were involved in a high-scoring opening fixture, beating Nelson Mandela University 6-4.

 

Maties kicked on from there and never looked back, cruising through the round robin phase without defeat and emphatically beating defending champions UJ 15-2 as they topped the table with ease, six points ahead of second-placed Tuks who recorded five wins and two losses from their seven matches.

 

Both semi-finals were decided via penalty shootouts, as Stellenbosch drew 2-2 with fourth-placed North West University before winning 2-0 on penalties, while Tuks played out an enthralling 6-6 draw with third-placed Wits University, before edging their rivals 4-3 on penalties to book a spot in this year’s final.

 

Having gone unbeaten throughout the tournament, and having beaten Tuks 5-4 in the round robin stage, Maties were firm favourites heading into Monday’s final, yet a combination of missed opportunities, Tuks’ fighting spirit and with the aid of the “Power Play”, University of Pretoria emerged 5-0 victors. Sam Mvimbi, Bradley Sherwood and Steven Paulo all registered their names on the scoresheet, with Mvimbi and Paulo’s strikes counting for two points having both been scored in the “Power Play.”

 

Goal scorer Paulo, who netted seven goals across the entire tournament, was thrilled after the game, and credited the team’s collective effort, as well as the intelligence of coach Guy Elliot, for his team’s success.

 

“We have worked hard for this,” he told Tuks media. “Strategy was key to our success. Guy gave us the plan, and we worked hard to stick to it. We are a team, and everyone seems to put the team first naturally. I think that is why we have been successful.”

 

Following the Tuks women’s hockey success of 2017, the University of Pretoria are now double hockey champions as they continue their impressive 2018 so far, having won three out of the four Varsity Sports tournaments that have taken place this year. They emerged winners of the cricket and athletics championships, while Maties took honours in the rugby final.

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