Adapting to a different format at the University Sport South Africa (USSA) hockey tournament will be among 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 Madibaz team determined to show what they can do after playing in the last two finals.
However, coach Cheslyn Gie said their main challenge would be to adjust 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 played earlier this year.
“The approach and strategy per quarter changes and we struggled to make the adjustment to the fast pace in the fourth.”
The Madibaz have also battled to replace experienced players Dalan Phillips, who now coaches the women’s team, and Jason Maclachlan.
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 definitely aiming to make at least the semifinals.
“In defence, our goalkeepers Chad Durrheim and Muzzamil Sheik will be vital players, as well as captain Grant Kapp, who had a great Varsity Hockey tournament.
“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 Comerasammy are very good as a combination and experienced at this level.”
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 said the biggest challenge would be adapting to the four-quarter format.
“The EP league has not introduced this in the last two years, so adapting to the format will take some time during this week. Our preparations have been pretty sound as we had a two-week training camp.”