Pens cause biggest upset in SA hockey history

2014-08-30 00:00

IT is still going to be the classic battle of South Africa’s hockey heavyweights, Western Province and Southern Gauteng, in the final of the Greenfields Men’s Interprovincial at Queensmead in Durban come 4.30 pm today — except this time it’s going to be a different Western Province team wearing different colours.

The Western Province’s second stringers, WP Peninsula (Pens), caused the biggest upset in South African hockey’s history at domestic level when they beat their senior side, defending champions Western Province, with 11 SA-capped players, 2-1 in the second semi-final yesterday after trailing 1-0 at half-time.

It was the first time Pens had ever reached the semi-finals, while the last time a second team had made the final was when Southern Gauteng Wits were thrashed by a national-player-packed Natal team in 1996.

Pens’ goals went to Ryan Julius and Marc Fourie in the 44th and 53rd minutes respectively while captain Clive Terwin had opened the scoring for WP in the sixth minute.

On Wednesday, Pinelands club player Jack Thonissen was relaxing at home, on Thursday he was flying to Durban as a last-minute replacement for a Pens injury; yesterday he played his heart out for Pens and became part of history — and today he could win gold and the most prestigious title in SA hockey.

Athens 2004 Olympian Steve Evans, now a social player but one of the most astute hockey brains in the country, was set to coach Pens at IPT, but became a player — and just about their best player — when another injury forced his hand.

“This is a special group, every single person has contributed in one way or another,” said Evans minutes after the final whistle had sounded.

“We had done our homework, had created a mentality, it wasn’t pretty hockey like the big teams but we knew we could capitalise on the five or six chances we created, tactically the boys played to the game plan and got the result,” said Evans.

WP coach Pierre le Roux said his side couldn’t get anything right against Pens. “Our basics were terrible, we couldn’t control the game, Pens are the best hustlers here.”

Evans added a last word. “On Saturday, it depends on which Southerns side rocks up, and sometimes they don’t.”

Southerns, with 13 of their 18 players having played for SA, had to work very, very hard to beat underdogs and Pretoria neighbours Northern Blues 4-2 in the first semi-final after the score was 2-1 at half-time.

Blues head coach Krinesan Moodley was both disappointed at the outcome but proud of his team.

“I can’t fault our commitment; but when we were leading 1-0 we were reduced to eight players and that turned the game.”

Southerns head coach Rob van Ginkel also pinpointed that key phase in what was a typically tense Gauteng derby. “We were 1-0 down and what got us back into the game was when they had three off the field. We scored two goals then, so as a coach it was pleasing that we used the numerical advantage.

“It was a real scrap but now we have got to re-focus on the final.”

The scoreline doesn’t give the best picture of just how close this tussle was and Northerns opened the scoring in the 15th minute through vice-captain Mark Holliday.

Moodley said his side never stopped believing. “We stood back for no one, had enough chances to win and were right in it with five minutes to go.

“Going into the semi-final we had already achieved our pre-IPT target of a top four finish — in competition with far more experienced teams. This is a young, inexperienced side and Northerns’ future is bright.

RESULTS

A Section (5th to 8th place play-offs round 1): KZN Coastal Raiders 8 Eastern Province 2; South Gauteng Wits 3 KZN Inland 1. Semi-finals: Southern Gauteng 4 Northern Blues 2; Western Province Peninsula 2 Tuffy Western Province 1.

B Section (5th to 8th place playoffs round 1): SA Country Districts 4 EP Settlers 3; Border 8 Namibia 2. Semi-finals: KZN Coastal Mynahs 3 North West 1; Free State 2 KZN Coastal Robins 1.

FIXTURES

At Queensmead – A Section (7th/8th relegation match): Eastern Province vs KZN Inland 8.30am; (5th/6th) KZN Coastal Raiders vs South Gauteng Wits 10.30am; (bronze medal match) Tuffy Western Province vs Northern Blues 12.30pm; (gold medal title match) Southern Gauteng vs WP Peninsula 4.30pm.

B Section (gold medal promotion match): KZN Coastal Mynahs vs Free State.

At Three Schools Trust – B Section (7th/8th): EP Settlers vs Namibia 8am; (5th/6th) Border vs SA Country Districts; (bronze medal match) North West vs KZN Coastal Robins.

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