The University of the Free State (Kovsies) continued its dream run in Varsity Sports events when they sealed a home final in the Varsity Hockey competition. They will face the University of Johannesburg, who easily beat the University of Pretoria (Tuks) 2-0, in what should be a fantastic match on 18 May. Kovsies beat defending champions University of Stellenbosch (Maties) 3-1 in a tense affair on Monday night.
Maties made a fast start to the match and kept the pressure on Kovsies, with skipper Erin Hunter taking control. With three minutes left in the first quarter, Kovsies had finally fought back. Ayanda Gans slapped home from close range after a fantastic initial save by Maties’ Nicole Le Fleur. The second quarter stared much like the first one, but Maties simply could not break through and it was Line Malan who smashed home a short corner to double Kovsies’ lead.
At the start of the second half, Maties found themselves with a numerical advantage – after Nicole Walraven was sent to the sin bin for a poor tackle – and took full advantage when a Quanita Bobbs shot was deflected home by Heather McEwen with six minutes remaining in the quarter. With just one goal separating the two teams in the final quarter, it was all to play for, but soon it was Maties who found themselves a player short after Bronwyn Kretzman saw yellow for a poor tackle. Kovsies took advantage of the extra player when Walraven slapped home an effort off a rebound from a short corner with eight minutes remaining.
The Bloemfontein side maintained their lead and clinched the victory which handed them a dream final. Elsewhere, UJ were in firm control right from the get go and were in the lead early on after captain Kaila Flemming slotted home a penalty. Tuks managed to maintain possession but struggled in the final third.
The Joburg side nabbed their second goal with just over a minute to go to half-time with a fantastic low backhand shot from star striker Lilian Du Plessis. UJ continued where they left off when they returned from the break, giving UP-Tuks no time on the ball and attacking with speed in the danger area. UP-Tuks’ struggle for possession in the third chukka meant that they had to live of scraps and when they did get the ball, their technical ability let them down at crucial moments.
There was a brief period of the quarter in the seventh and eight minutes when UP-Tuks got three penalty corners in a row, but again UJ handled the pressure well to keep them out. UJ were happy to defend their two-goal lead until the hooter sounded for the end of the chukka.
UP-Tuks got a massive advantage in the fifth minute of the fourth chukka after UJ had two players sent off after green and yellow card offences. With the Pretoria ladies exerting more pressure with their extra players, another UJ player was yellow carded in the eighth minute giving UP-Tuks a golden chance to turn the game on its head. They could not break their opponents defence however, and UJ closed out the game comfortably in the end for the win
With Kovsies unbeaten in the competition and UJ showing some real chutzpah, the final is expected to be epic. With Kovsies already having hosted and won the Varsity Cup earlier this year, the atmosphere is expected to be electric as the Bloemfontein university starts cementing its place as a powerhouse of South African sport.