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Tuks women triumph at USSA tournament

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The Tuks women’s team proved they were still the undisputed ‘queens’ of South African student hockey when they won the USSA title in Bloemfontein by beating Kovsies 1-0 in the final.

It means Tuks have been victorious in all three of the last tournaments they contested. Last year they achieved a unique double, winning the USSA as well as the Varsity Tournaments.

The ever-humble Inky Zondi (coach) ascribes his team’s success to hard work, guts and pure passion.

‘We had something to prove as many pundits didn’t believe that we had what it takes to defend the title. That certainly served as extra motivation.’

According to the Tuks players, Zondi is too modest, claiming that he is the real architect of their success. There is indeed truth in what they say because, in his own words, Zondi is a forever student of the game.

Zondi realised at the start of the season that he had to bring about change in the way his team go about things. Seven of last year’s all-conquering team were still playing, but there were also eight newcomers.

Megan Anderson was also new in the role as captain. It meant the challenge Zondi faced was to adapt the team tactics to the individual skills of the newcomers.

‘We don’t want to keep on playing the same year-in and year-out. It is all good and well for me to see the game in a certain way but I’m not on the field playing. In other words, I need to keep on evolving as a coach,’ explained Zondi.

Zondi was full of praise for the way Anderson and Marizen Marais (vice-captain) took responsibility for what happened on the Astroturf. He was also impressed with the passion and commitment Claire Gibbings displayed.

Tuks

Hockey can be a cruel game at times. The Tuks men’s hockey time can vouch for it. They ended up finishing third but with a bit of luck, things so easily could have been different.

Before Tuks even took to the Astroturf to play Maties in the semi-finals, it was generally accepted that the game would turn out to be a humdinger and with good reason. Tuks and Maties contested the Varsity final with the ‘Striped-up Team’ being victorious so Maties had something to prove.

If it were a boxing match, it would have been described as the two teams slugging it out ‘blow for blow’. With one minute remaining in full-time play, Tuks were leading 1-0 but then Maties equalised. That led to the game being decided by a penalty shootout and Tuks lost.

‘It was tough losing in the semis, bearing in mind that this was the best tournament record this team has had,’ said Peabo Lembethe, the Tuks captain.

‘We scored the most goals and conceded the least goals. We were also unbeaten in the pool games. This is why it hurts only to finish third.

‘We faced off to UJ in the playoffs. Getting motivated for such a game was hard, but the lads showed professionalism which led to us winning 2-1 ending up getting “dirty gold”.’

Photos: Anderson (main picture) and Lembethe, by Reg Caldecott


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