The University of Johannesburg men’s hockey team continued an impressive record this year by being crowned Southern Gauteng champions after an unbeaten premier league run.
Under coach Garreth Ewing, the UJ outfit retained their title after also winning the Varsity Hockey tournament for a second time earlier this year.
With a record of 16 wins and two draws during the premier league season, UJ finished four points clear of second-placed Wanderers.
Although it may seem like they had a decent cushion in the final standings, Ewing said the pressure had always been on to deliver the results.
“For example, we drew with Old Eds with two games still to go. If we had managed to win there we would have taken the title with two games to spare,” said Ewing.
“As it was we secured the title in our second last match.”
The UJ mentor, who also coaches the SA men’s U21 team, said they recorded some important wins in the first half of the season.
“I believe the wins against Old Eds (4-0), Wanderers (5-4) and Jeppe (1-0) made the difference in the end.
“After that it was a question of keeping our heads and staying consistent for the rest of the season. We drew against Old Eds and Wanderers in the second half.”
Ewing said he felt a disciplined approach to every fixture they faced had carried them through.
“We treat every match with the same respect and try to be as professional as possible. This means we keep and, indeed, build momentum for the tougher matches.”
He added that they tried to ensure they scored a lot of goals to keep a positive goal difference. By the end of the season, UJ had netted 135 goals, 21 more than the next best team, and conceded only 25.
Ewing said they were fortunate to have the sort of depth which meant that everyone in the squad contributed at some stage to their success.
“But our senior players made a big difference, specifically captain Gareth Heyns, our central defender and penalty corner specialist.
“I think in all competitions (league, Varsity Hockey and Ussa) he scored nearly 50 goals this season, so it’s obvious what a significant contribution he made.”
He added that the premier league success was a huge boost for UJ hockey.
“To be consistent throughout a campaign of several months, often against experienced opposition, is important to a young group like us.
“We always take the league very seriously and we are ecstatic when we are successful.
“I’m also very grateful to my support staff for helping the team do so well and to be in position to compete in every game.”
Ewing said it was satisfying to see that more than half the UJ team were included in the Premier Hockey League franchises, a national competition being played in Johannesburg each weekend this month.