Excitement mounts in Pretoria as the University of Pretoria (UP-Tuks) hosts the 2017 Varsity Hockey final, for the second time since its inception in 2013. They’ll be up against University of Stellenbosch (Maties), on Monday 22 May.
Varsity Hockey alternates between the men’s and women’s tournaments every year, and this year it is the turn of the women. Maties won the first title in 2013, incidentally at the same venue as Monday’s final, after beating an in-form North West University (NWU-Pukke) side 1-0.
UP-Tuks and Maties finished in first and second place respectively and have been firm favourites ever since the first round of matches, which were played in Stellenbosch between 5 and 8 May. Both sides have been in exceptional form and have been playing an exciting brand of hockey, with UP-Tuks topping the log solely based on goal difference after both teams ended on 18 log points. UP-Tuks mostly impressed in the opening round when they scored 35 goals and conceded just one, in their only loss against NWU-Pukke, while Maties went into the second leg as the only unbeaten side.
The hosts for Monday’s final have some key players to thank for their impressive resolve both on offence and defence. For Tuks, captain Natalie Esteves, Catherine Morris, Chané Hill and Izelle Verster have been the lynchpins of the squad.
Maties’ unbeaten run in the first leg included wins over 2015 champions University of Johannesburg (UJ) in the opening game, 2015 finalists Kovsies, Madibaz, and a penalty shooutout victory against NWU-Pukke. The 2013 champions got their second round of matches off to a poor start following a 3-1 loss to Monday’s opposition, UP-Tuks, but bounced back with three straight wins which included the 3-2 semi-final victory over NWU-Pukke in front of packed crowd in Potchefstroom.
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Maties and UP-Tuks have met each other three times since 2013, but this will be the first time they face each other in a knockout match. UP-Tuks recorded the only win after the first two meetings, in 2013 and 2015 respectively, resulted in draws. It was Morris who ended Maties’ first leg unbeaten run, in Potchefstroom last week, after a brilliant backstick field goal found the back of the net, handing the Maroon Platoon their first and only defeat this season. This win helped UP-Tuks top the log as a loss for them against Maties would have most likely resulted in a second or third place log finish.
The visitors will be hoping Tarryn Glasby continues her fine form. Not only has the South Africa national player netted seven goals but more impressively, has been awarded the FNB Player of the Match prize no less than five times. It was Glasby’s stunner of a goal that dumped NWU-Pukke out of the competition in the 3-2 semi-final victory. Fellow South Africa national player, Nicole le Fleur has been masterful in the goal for Maties. The Post Grad student has been the difference between a few top strikers scoring goals and some of them not getting any. The Maties goalkeeper has received three Mugg & Bean Star Saver awards for her magnificent efforts throughout the competition.
Interestingly enough, this will be the second time this year that Maties and UP-Tuks face-off in a major sports final after FNB Maties and FNB UP-Tuks met in the final of the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International just over a month ago. It was the hosts who triumphed over the visitors in front of a packed stadium then; can the hockey team emulate their rugby colleagues or will it be the Maroon Platoon who succeed in outsmarting the hosts?
The Varsity Hockey final will be played at 18:45 at Tuks Astro and will be live on SuperSport 7 and SuperSport Select.
Tuks squad: Marlise van Tonder, Melicia van Loggerenberg, Marissa Poolman, Chané Hill, Jénica De Encarnaçăo, Anél Luüs, Catherine Morris, Meeghan Scheffer, Izelle Verster (v/c), Natalie Esteves (c), Danielle Kerdachi, Luvolwethu Nkole, Claire Gibbings, Amy Etherington, Amoné Mouton, Thandokazi Chithi, Mabongi Nyalungu
Maties squad: Nicole Le Fleur, Lenta Cullinan, Stephanie Botha, Simone Strydom, Heather Mc Ewan (c), Lida Kotze, Paige Phillips, Sandiswe Tabata, Tarryn Glasby, Danielle Cairns, Natasha Rootenberg, Georgia Grobler, Aimee Pote, Page Alcock, Minke van Heerden, Alegra Dijkstra, Polly Mashau, Kirsten Block
By Lyndon Julius