The Madibaz women’s hockey team will “play without fear” in the A section of the University Sports South Africa tournament in a bid to back up last year’s performance when they gained promotion.
The annual event will be hosted by Varsity College in Durban from July 3 to 7.
Head coach Andrew Beynon said they were delighted to be back in the top echelon of the competition but also cognisant of the challenge that lay ahead.
“It was obviously good for us to achieve promotion, but now we need to back that up against the best varsity teams in the country,” he said.
It is a fact that the Madibaz will be tested by a serious of tough matches during the week, which is why they will look no further than just the next game.
The goal was to improve their performances with each fixture and finish strongly, Beynon explained.
Even though the team do not have any experience in the top section, he is bargaining on that sense of adventure that comes with youth.
“We will try to play without fear,” he proclaimed.
The Madibaz prepared with a weeklong training camp in which they tried to replicate the conditions and strength of the opposition that will be encountered in Durban.
“Hopefully, we have gained some good mental and physical benefits from that because we will have to be disciplined and show a willingness to stay in the contest for as long as possible.”
The coach believes that they will be starved of possession – much more so than in the local leagues – and therefore need to remain resolute before showing quality on the break.
Following their relegation in 2022, men’s captain and goalkeeper Kamva Dyakala said their sights were set on emulating the women’s performance of last year to re-enter the premier division.
To do that, they will have to finish as top dogs among six teams in the section.
“We are not the only team keen to get back to the A section. All the others will have the same mind-set, so it’s going to be hard work,” Dyakala warned.
With a largely inexperienced team, he feels consistency can be the biggest stumbling block in their path to success “while playing five games in five days will be a test of the players’ fitness and endurance”.
They will however head into the USSAs with some solid momentum on the back of positive performances this season.
The Madibaz only lost out on a place in the quarterfinals of the KC March Easter tournament due to goal difference while they are unbeaten in the EP Premier League this season.
“We will be eager to translate that form into some sort of success in Durban,” Dyakala said.
The onus will be on senior players like Edward Gibbons (defender), Rick Vaupotic (fetcher) and the captain to lead by example. Gibbons and Vaupotic, the team’s drag-flickers, have been particularly good in the leagues and will want to make that form count come next week.
The Madibaz will have exciting first-year students Gerhard Rockman and Sachin Padayachee do duty in die midfield and the captain hopes they will be able to bring the stability and momentum needed.