The tournament hosted by NWU-PUK will feature only women’s hockey as part of a rotational structure where the men’s and women’s tournament is played biannually.
Eight universities, including defending champions the University of Stellenbosch, will battle it out for this season’s Varsity Hockey title which will run until May 18 across three different venues.
NMMU, UCT, UJ, Tuks, Maties, Wits, Pukke and Kovsies will battle it out for the title in the first round of fixtures taking place at Pukke from May 1 to 4. The next round of matches will be played at Wits and UJ from May 8 to 10, with the final being played on May 18 at the venue of the team that finished highest on the log.
All participating teams will receive prize money on a sliding scale with the top teams earning the biggest sum. Varsity Sports plays an important role in helping lift the profile of hockey in South Africa. Although hockey is a popular sport in terms of participation, the South African Hockey Association estimates around 250 000 people play the sport annually. However, hockey has at times struggled to get a foothold in becoming a truly professional sport.
Lack of sponsorship and funding has often meant that talented players fall by the wayside because they cannot afford to pay their own way to big tournaments. But Varsity Hockey is taking one small step to readdress those imbalances. By offering young talents exposure, specifically through television broadcasts, Varsity Sports aims to raise the profile of the talent pool of South Africa’s young players, through which they can subsequently garner individual sponsorship to assist them with their career growth.
Duitser Bosman, CEO of Varsity Sports, said the tournament should be a resounding success.
“We are really excited about this year’s Varsity Hockey tournament,” said Bosman.
“We’ve had tremendous success with all our other sporting codes so far this year and we hope the crowds will come out and support the hockey teams.
“Part of what makes Varsity Sports so successful is the exposure it offers to young athletes and it’s no different with hockey. A number of our Varsity Hockey players have gone on to earn their national stripes and we hope to see many more graduate from the system this year.
“With the 2016 Olympics a goal for many of these young sporting stars, this weekend’s line-up is sure to be action-packed with non-stop suspense and excitement.”