Women give Maties something to think about

12 June 2006

For once, the Western Province Grand Challenge log is still undecided.

It's unfamiliar ground for everyone.

For the first time in ages, the University of Stellenbosch's women's hockey first team finds itself in second place on the WP Grand Challenge log. And, just as unusual, UCT enjoys pole position, one point ahead of their arch rivals. (Even if Maties boast a better goal difference of 26 after seven matches apiece.)

"We've been telling ourselves all season that we need to keep questioning Maties," says UCT coach, Charlie Stuart.

And the side has done just that. Each match, UCT kept picking up those precious bonus points (the most recent in a 5-1 win over Constantiaberg-Gardens), while Maties - in an unwonted lapse - dropped one against Somerset West.

This past Sunday, the teams had their moment of truth when they went head to head for the first time this season. (We'll report on the match in our next edition.)

Both sides have a lot to prove - Maties that they're still the force they've always been, UCT that they're no longer happy to be known as just the second-best outfit in the league.

"For the first time, realistically, the UCT girls can say that we have a chance," says Stuart. "We've been encouraged by the fact that we've been able to keep pace with them, and in fact sneak our noses ahead."

On paper, Maties boast the stronger side - just about all their players have represented South Africa at one level or the other. And 12 of the 17 players selected for the WP A side for an upcoming tournament hail from Stellenbosch, while UCT have four.

But that doesn't mean that the result is a foregone conclusion. UCT, remember, famously upstaged Stellenbosch in a 1-0 win in the SASSU semifinals in 2005.

"There's always a little bit extra in the game," says Stuart.

Just maybe, that'll be enough for UCT.

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