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23 May 2019 | in NUSF News

South African universities finest Field Hockey team crowned

The North-West University triumphed in a pulsating Varsity Hockey final in South Africa on Monday night, winning the competition for the first time in their history.

 

Varsity Hockey is an annual competition which pits South Africa’s best eight university hockey teams against each other, alternating between a male and female tournament every year.

 

Following the inaugural female event in 2013, where University of Stellenbosch beat North West University in the final, the following two tournaments were won by University of Johannesburg (2015) and University of Pretoria (2017), producing a new victor each time.

 

The 2019 edition began at the start of May, with the first round robin match seeing a repeat of the 2017 final as Maties (University of Stellenbosch) avenged their loss two years ago with a 2-0 win over Tuks (University of Pretoria).

 

Maties continued their statement of intent, scoring 17 goals in their first four matches to comfortably top the table until a narrow 2-1 loss to North-West University (Pukke) in Round 5. That would be a minor speedbump in their scintillating group stage form as they topped the standings after seven rounds, scoring 27 goals while conceding just eight as they looked well on track to go one better than last year’s runner’s up spot.

 

As the only team to beat them, Pukke had a shaky start to the competition, losing two of their opening four games, before a 2-1 win over Maties put their season back on track as they ended third on the table with five wins and two losses, with an almost identical record to University of the Free State – who beat them 4-1 on match day three – who finish second on the table on goal-difference.

 

Last year’s winners Tuks faced table-toppers Maties in the semi-finals, with Maties emerging 7-5 victors to book themselves into a successive final, while Pukke avenged their group stage defeat to University of Free State with a closely-fought 5-4 victory to book themselves a final spot, in what turned out to be a repeat of the first-ever 2013 finale.

 

Heading into the final, most of the omens favoured Maties: yes, they had lost (very narrowly) to Pukke in the group stages, yet they were the tournament’s in-form team, topping the table with the most goals scored, and had beaten Pukke in six of their eight previous encounters. They also had seven players in their team who had featured in the 2017 final, while above all, they were playing at home, where they had not lost all season.

 

Despite this, Pukke started the final on the front foot and created the better opportunities in the opening stages, but could not fashion out the final’s opening goal.

 

In front of their home Stellenbosch crowd, Maties then changed gear as they went in search of the decisive strike, with Pukke frantically defending two penalty corners in succession just after halt-time to keep the hosts at bay.

 

As the clock wound down, Pukke’s efforts for a goal intensified, with the home crowd holding their breath as a last minute penalty-corner failed to break the deadlock, as the final went down to a penalty shootout.

 

In the driving Stellenbosch rain, some of the home crowd’s tears were hidden from the precipitation above as visitors Pukke claimed a 2-1 shootout victory, sealing their first-ever Varsity Hockey crown and becoming the fourth different team to win the female tournament in the four different competitions that have taken place since 2013.

 

Victorious captain Charne Maddocks says her side’s pre-season preparations made a huge difference this year as they finally claimed their first title.

 

 “We put in the hard yards we have been hard at work since the 14th of January already so I think the hard yards have paid off,” she said. “I am super proud that we actually made it through to the final and yes, the best team won.”

 

 

All Photo credits: Varsity Sports

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