Kingsridge are not taking anything for granted as they seek a hat-trick of wins when the East London Inland tournament of the SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge is played in King William’s Town on Sunday.
As the hosts, Kingsridge will be competing in familiar territory, but coach Mark Taljaard said there would be plenty of tough opposition as nine schools vie for the title.
Since the inaugural tournament in 2016, Kingsridge have twice won the Inland event to qualify for the provincial finals and they will be fielding an experienced line-up.
Taljaard said they had lost only three players from last year, which helped to maintain a sense of continuity.
But he acknowledged that there would be no easy games in a tournament played over a shortened format of 20 minutes for each match.
“Our form has not been bad this year, but Girls High School from Queenstown are going to be a very tough outfit,” said Taljaard.
“They are a quite different team from last year and although we beat them 1-0 in our annual derby at the weekend, they will be a side to watch.”
He said they would be delighted to win the event for the third straight year, but felt that teams such as Aliwal North and Burgersdorp would also provide stiff opposition.
“The format of the tournament means anything can happen in 20 minutes, so we will take every game as a final.
“Our strategy focuses on trying to keep possession and aim for a goal early in the game.
“If you can do that it puts pressure on the opposition and they start chasing the game, which sometimes opens an opportunity to sneak a second goal.
“But, in saying that, sometimes you also like a closer game and try to get ahead in the last two or three minutes. That puts a lot of pressure on the opposition to make up the deficit.”
Taljaard said the SPAR Hockey Challenge continued to be an integral part of their annual programme.
“SPAR have really done well with this initiative,” he said.
“It adds some variety to our fixtures each year as you are getting the chance to move away from the annual derby games and play teams you would not normally meet.
“It also opens the way for those other schools to broaden their playing programme, which is good for hockey all round.”
The teams competing on Sunday are: pool A: Kingsridge, Aliwal North, Templeton, Hangklip; pool B: Queenstown Girls’ High, Stutterheim, St Christopher’s, De Vos Malan, Burgersdorp.
The sides will play a round-robin in their pools, with the winners meeting in the final.
The overall champions will qualify for the provincial finals to be played at Woodridge, near Port Elizabeth, on August 11.