The University of Johannesburg squash team will focus on their strengths to deal with the pressure of being defending champions in the University Sport South Africa (Ussa) tournament in Stellenbosch from July 4 to 8.

Squash manager Linly de Beer said they were not underestimating any of their rivals as they prepared for the annual showdown.

“The past has shown that to underestimate a team could be to your own detriment.” He believed Tuks, Pukke and Maties all had the potential to win.

“I think NMMU may be the dark horses. They have consistently upped their game over the past few years and have shown that with good coaching, commitment and team spirit anything is possible.”

De Beer acknowledged there would be some pressure on them to defend the title, but said their focus would be on sticking to their plans.

“Our plan is to play to our strengths and to enjoy the squash. If every player does his or her best, nobody can be disappointed with the outcome.”

Despite losing a number of key players, De Beer said good planning had ensured that they had the potential to emulate the 2015 side.

“Losing players is expected and planned for and those who have replaced them are of exceptional quality. We have three new players who could surprise our opponents with their skill.”

He was reluctant to single out specific players and said they would approach the tournament from a team point of view where everyone needed to pull their weight.

Their preparations had not been adversely affected by exam commitments, said De Beer.

“Our players have always had their priorities straight and never shown a lack of commitment. A good balance is maintained between studies, training and even a social life.

“This has always counted in our favour as it has brought the team together and ensured that they support each other and are well motivated.”

The players at this year’s Ussa tournament face a different challenge following the addition of an individual event alongside the traditional team competition.

Instead of playing two matches per day over the five days, players will now contest the individual tournament over the first two and a half days, followed by the team event.

“This will increase the intensity of the tournament even further, forcing each player to produce their best squash throughout the week,” said De Beer.

The players who will be representing the University of Johannesurg at the Ussa squash tournament in Stellenbosch next month are, from left, Ruan Olivier, Ray Dlamini, Tyrone Dial, Ian Sturgeon, Blessing Muhwati, Kyle Maree, Simpiwe Gqibane and, front, Nonpumelelo Ndaba, Alexa Pienaar, Kacey-Leigh Dodd and Mikaila Westmorland. Photo: Supplied

Issued by: Full Stop Communications