The Mecer NMMU-Madibaz men’s hockey team dominated the final stretch of their programme to regain the Eastern Province premier league title in a thrilling finish to the competition.
After struggling with injuries for most of the season, the Madibaz won three of their last four games in August to pip defending champions Lakeside Cavaliers by one point for the title.
In doing so, the varsity outfit were crowned champions again after also winning the title from 2011 to 2014.
Crucially, said coach Cheslyn Gie, they defeated Rhodes 7-1 in their final fixture, earning a bonus point to put some pressure on Lakeside Cavaliers.
“That meant Lakeside Cavaliers had to win their last match to win the league,” he said.
The champions, however, went down 3-2 to Gelvan Hurricanes in that game to finish on 34 points, compared to NMMU’s 35.
“The final result between Lakeside Cavaliers and Gelvan Hurricanes was a surprise but not a huge one,” said Gie. “Gelvan defeated us 3-2 three weeks prior to that and we knew they had the ability to spring a surprise.
“Also, under the coaching of ex-NMMU player Nathan Kops, they have improved throughout the season and have played with a good structure.”
Gie praised the Madibaz squad for their dedication in what he called a “very satisfying win in an injury-riddled season”.
“The versatility of the players to adapt to various positions and their never-say-die attitude were the major factors in us coming through.
“It was definitely a team effort, but a huge part of our success was the role played by our biokineticist Runeshan Moodley in keeping our players on the field and fit to play.”
Gie added that their success would not have been possible without the support of their sponsors.
“It’s tough to get sponsorships in hockey these days and we’re thankful to Mecer for their continued support that ensures we are able to lure top players to our club.”