York High will be chasing their fourth straight title when the South Western Districts leg of the Spar Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge is held in George on Saturday.
It will be the last regional qualifier for the annual hockey extravaganza, which sees a total of 70 schools competing in five separate tournaments.
These events culminate in the provincial finals to be hosted by Collegiate in Port Elizabeth on July 27 and 28.
Earlier this year DSG (PE Inland) and Clarendon Girls’ High (East London Coastal) booked their spots in the provincial finale and they were joined at the weekend by Woodridge (PE Central) and Queenstown Girls’ High (East London Inland).
Now it is the turn of the SWD schools, and defending champions York, who are hosting the tournament, are gearing up for a serious challenge.
“It definitely won’t be an easy tournament because the level of play between teams like York, Outeniqua and Glenwood House is very close,” said York director of sport Jason Slater.
“The York team know that anything can happen in a tournament of this nature and it is going to be a tough challenge.”
Matches in the Spar Challenge are limited to 20 minutes each, which intensifies the pressure and the outcome could hinge on one crucial moment, he added.
Slater said the Hockey Challenge concept, with its emphasis on creating a happy vibe, remained a firm favourite among the players.
“It’s something to look forward to each year and another chance for the players to receive exposure on a different platform to the normal inter-schools matches.”
Spar EC sponsorships and events manager Alan Stapleton said they were anticipating another exciting tournament.
“We, at SPAR, are looking forward to the final regional event in George,” he said. “If the previous play-offs are anything to go by, we are in for a cracker of a day.”