CAPTION: Captain Taylor Dart led the University of Johannesburg’s men’s team to victory in the University Sport South Africa hockey tournament in Johannesburg last week. The women’s team picked up the silver medal. Photo: Saspa
The University of Johannesburg’s hockey teams confirmed their status as one of the top varsities in the country when they enjoyed considerable success in the University Sport South Africa tournament that finished on Sunday.
The men’s team regained the title they last won in 2014, while the women were shaded in the closing stages of their final against Pretoria University to finish runners-up.
UJ hockey manager Elize le Roux paid tribute to the players and the coaching staff for doing well in a tough tournament, which was jointly hosted by UJ and Wits.
“We must say massive congratulations to both teams for their performances and hard work,” she said, while also commending the staff’s role in the teams’success.
She added that it had not been plain sailing during a well-contested week of student hockey.
“After a narrow 1-0 win over Varsity College by the men’s team, we had a tough match against Stellenbosch, which we lost 4-3 after conceding two yellow cards in the last seven minutes when we led 3-2.”
They then drew 1-1 with Wits in a massive showdown to secure a spot in the semifinals, where they defeated Pretoria 1-0.
“In the final against NMMU-Madibaz we were 2-0 down for a long time before we came back to level the match at 3-3,” she said. “We then scored the winner from a set piece to take the match 4-3.”
Le Roux said the women’s team had a mental breakthrough on the opening day when they drew 0-0 with Free State after having lost to them in the Varsity Hockey competition.
“We then beat North-West University 1-0, which was a must win for the pool standings, and followed that with a 4-0 victory over KwaZulu-Natal to end top of our section.
“In the semis, we drew with Wits in normal time, but beat them 3-0 in the shoot-out before losing to Tuks in the final.
“It was extremely close, with no score until two minutes before the end when they converted a penalty corner for the victory.”
While Le Roux said teamwork was the principal factor behind their success, she pointed out a number of players who had played key roles.
“In the women’s team, Kristen Paton held our midfield together, while goalkeeper Robyn Ormond was outstanding.
“Among the men, vice-captain Gareth Heyns and captain Taylor Dart were the seniors who provided the experience we needed to keep the team grounded.”
She added it was a satisfying outcome for both teams, which included some young players.
“Obviously we go through planning phases for performance and the Ussa week showed us we have the depth to pull off the results if we work hard.
“The matches didn’t always go our way as the pools are tough, but it was a relief and pure joy to have seen such great results from both teams in a gold and a silver.”
Le Roux said the final results would be an invaluable experience for the younger players in the squads.
“As we lose seniors through finishing their studies, the youngsters will have to take the reins and I am sure they have learnt that hard work is needed for performances like these.
“The youngsters are new but experienced enough to take UJ hockey further.”