The popularity of the SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge was confirmed this week with an increase in the number of teams for the Border Coastal leg in East London on Sunday.
Tournament director Tim Stirk, of Cambridge High, said the initial excitement in the series had manifested itself with the addition of Grens and Alphendale to the eight teams that competed last year.
After the first two events were played in Graaff-Reinet and Queenstown, the Border Coastal tournament will take place at Cambridge, with the final scheduled to start at 4.20pm.
“Introduced for the first time last year, the teams are now a bit more aware what the tournament offers and there is increasing interest in being involved,” said Stirk.
Although he felt that defending champions Hudson Park and Clarendon would again be the sides to beat, he expected keen competition among the teams.
He said the format of 20-minute matches levelled the playing field and he did not rule out any upsets on the day.
Hudson will head pool A where they will be joined by Lilyfontein, Cambridge, John Bisseker and Grens.
Pool B will comprise last year’s runners-up, Clarendon, along with Stirling, Merrifield, Greenpoint and Alphendale.
Stirling, who lost to 2-1 to Clarendon, and Lilyfontein, who went down 4-0 to Hudson, were the losing semifinalists last year.
SPAR Eastern Cape promotions and advertising manager Alan Stapleton said there was lots of excitement brewing for the Border Coastal leg.
“Teams like Clarendon, Stirling and Hudson Park are among the early favourites, but we are looking forward to another exciting day of competition.”
He said the competition tied in with SPAR’s values of family and passion as well as encouraging a healthy lifestyle and teamwork.
“It’s good to be supporting hockey, especially at a junior level. We are able to interact with our future customers and, via them, thank their parents for their support.”
The Border Coastal tournament is the third leg of this year’s Schoolgirls Challenge, with Union High (Port Elizabeth Inland) and Kingsridge (Border Inland) already through to the provincial finals at Woodridge, near Port Elizabeth, on August 12.
Following the East London tournament, the remaining regional legs will be played in George on May 27 and Port Elizabeth on June 4.