Keenan Horne explains how Varsity Hockey has pushed universities to improve conditions and make the transition to professional hockey seamless.
Keenan Horne walked away with almost every award on offer in 2016’s edition of Varsity Hockey, including the Samsung Striker of the Tournament award. Scoring at will, the Maties striker soon found himself in the SA national men’s squad and in 2018, was selected to take part in the Commonwealth Games.
“Representing South Africa at the Commonwealth Games was an absolute dream,” said Horne. “Testing yourself against the best players in the World is why you play the game, and to be in a country where hockey is well supported definitely made it an exciting challenge with such huge crowds.
“While the results didn’t go in our favour, we ticked a lot of boxes in terms of our processes and what we’re building towards for the World Cup.”
Horne, who captained his country for the first time at the Games, is ineligible to take part in Varsity Hockey this year, due to the 25-year age limit, but says that fans can expect a thrilling spectacle.
“Varsity Hockey is a fast-paced and very dynamic tournament compared to other events. I think that is due to all the teams being on a good pre-season program building towards peaking at the Varsity Hockey tournament. So you find the fittest teams in the country playing against each other with little margin for error.”
Entertainment aside, Horne believes that the now six-year old tournament has become vital to the growth of the sport in South Africa.
“With the introduction of Varsity Hockey, a lot more universities are putting proper conditioning and training programs together in order to prep for the tournament. This allows players to form part of professional programs and it improves their hockey immensely and sets a high standard for their careers at a young age.
“That makes the transition from Varsity Hockey to the national set-up almost seamless, because these young players are used to being involved in conditioning and high performance programs.”
Catch all the Varsity Hockey action this weekend, from 4-7 May at Wits Astro and live on SuperSport on Monday 7 May.