Sportsmanship wins the day

2008-04-09 00:00

DAY four of the men’s U21 Interprovincial Tournament was something of a respite after the drama and passion that characterised its predecessors.

In fact, the AB Jackson Greenfields Turf hockey venue was far easier on the heart rate as “custard slices” — sin-bin yellow cards — were not required to the same degree.

Players behaved far better, and umpires had it a lot easier and were able to concentrate on the hockey and not the histrionics and sideshows off the ball that have bedevilled what has still been a fine inter-provincial tournament (IPT), showcasing some truly top-class U21 hockey.

It may have provided less spectacle in terms of drama, but there was more opportunity for the connoisseurs to appreciate the aesthetics of what is a wonderful sport.

Sides who look to be on course for tomorrow afternoon’s semi-finals underlined their claim. The quality SA U19 team provided some classic moments in defeating a plucky Border 6-0.

There were glimpses of pure poetry in motion from the SA youngsters.

One was a goal by the outstanding Matthew Hampson that bore fruit after nine or 10 passes that swept from left to right on a remorseless path towards the Border goals.

Hampson himself started his own journey from the left wing in his own 22 before delivering the killer blow at the other end of the field diagonally opposite from where he had started.

Francois Pretorius is a composed defender with consummate skill and a quiet yet confident efficiency in fulfilling his role in an extremely talented SA U19 side. He gets my vote as player of the day for another classy performance.

Western Province sank Northern Gauteng’s hopes of successfully defending their title with a 5-1 victory, and they are well on track for the semi-finals along with the SA juniors, North West and Southern Gauteng.

Hosts KZN Midlands, without the skilful Tim Drummond after his concussion in the epic battle with SA U19 on Tuesday, came good despite their semi-final hopes being in the gutter, putting the sort of hockey together that made them my joint favourites alongside Western Province going into this IPT.

Skipper Duzo Khanyile in particular was on form in the attacking circle with a brace of goals and much creativity besides, and the performance of this Midlands team yesterday will only make reflection on what might have been all the more painful to swallow.

In the equivalent women’s IPT in Randburg, hosts Southerns look set to meet Northerns or SA U18 in the last four, while WP and North West appear to be on course for a mouthwatering collision in tomorrow’s semi-finals.

The margins of victory yeterday were thankfully a lot narrower than the uncomfortably large number of walkovers in the earlier rounds.

RESULTS

Men: SA U19 6 Border 0; WP 5 Northerns 1; KZN Midlands 5 EP 1; North West 8 Free State 0; KZN Coastal 5 SG Witwatersrand 2; Southern Gauteng 3 WP Peninsula 0.

Women: Wits 1 KZN Midlands 1; North West 1 Northerns 0; WP 2 Pens 0; EP 1 Free State 0; Southerns 1 KZN Coastal 0.

TODAY’S FIXTURES

Men: KZN Coastals vs Free State (8.30 am); Southern Gauteng vs Witwatersrand (10 am); Peninsula vs North West (11.30 am); Northerns vs KZN Midlands (1 pm); Eastern Province vs Border (2.30 pm); Western Province vs SA U19 (4 pm).

Women: Northerns vs Free State (9 am); North West vs SA U18 (10.30 am); Southern Gauteng vs Witwatersrand (1 pm); Western Province vs KZN Coastal (2.30 pm); Peninsula vs KZN Midlands (4 pm); EP (Bye).

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