Tough going for KZN Midlands

2008-05-04 00:00

THE first day of the Men’s Interprovincial Tournament at a chilly Absa NWU-Puk Hockey stadium in Potchefstroom yesterday brought conflicting emotions.

Last year’s finalists KZN Midlands were beaten 4-0 by Southern Gauteng, the Durban-based KZN Raiders outlasted plucky hosts North West

4-2, the well-oiled South Africa U21 combination defeated Northern Gauteng 4-0 and reigning champions Western Province beat their spirited B side, Peninsula, 5-1.

Ricky West flashed three Southern Gauteng penalty corners past Midlands goalkeeper Ryan Gray’s glove side, and the Johannesburg-based team turned over ball in the opposition’s 22 for Miguel da Graca to hammer into the backboard (4-0).

Kegan Walters earned two PCs for Midlands, but PG Geldenhuys’s first drag flick fizzed past the near post and top-class national goalkeeper Rassie Pieterse saved the second.

The Raiders were most impressive in scoring three goals before half-time, but North West pulled two back in fine fashion. The outstanding Gareth Carr settled it for Raiders, though, when he coolly slotted a penalty stroke.

The Midlands/Southerns match was a bittersweet encounter for coach Jock Coombes, captain Darryn Gallagher and the team from Pietermaritzburg.

Midlands chose to rest their SA players Gallagher and Tommy Hammond — a tactical decision, as national coach Gregg Clark has limited his charges’ IPT participation to four matches per player.

This is due to the Resolution South Africa team’s trip to Olympic city Beijing after IPT for a four nations tournament.

Clearly the depleted Midlands squad have targeted the weaker sides in their pool as must-win matches in an endeavour to ensure a berth in the fifth/sixth place classification match on Saturday.

Midlands, like most provinces, are anxious to avoid relegation to a possible B Section next season, should this 12-team IPT revert back to the top-six/bottom-six format of two years ago.

Gallagher’s side have also lost players to the SA U21 team, who are playing at IPT due to the Junior World Cup challenges that lie ahead. Then there are also the complications caused by the requirements of fulfilling the SA Hockey Association’s transformation policy.

Virtually all the top teams are affected by the current situation, although the provinces with greater depth are better off.

POOLS

Pool A: KZN Coastals (Raiders), Eastern Province, Namibia, North West, Western Province, WP Peninsula. Pool B: EP Settlers, KZN Midlands, KZN Coastals B (Mynahs), Northern Gauteng (Blues), South Africa U21, Southern Gauteng.

DAY 1 RESULTS

EP Settlers 2 KZN Mynahs 5; Southern Gauteng 4 KZN Midlands 0; SA U21 4 Northern Gauteng 0; KZN Raiders 4 North West 2; Western Province 5 WP Peninsula 1; EP 8 Namibia 1.

DAY 2 FIXTURES

Northerns Blues vs KZN Mynahs (9 am); EP vs Pens (10.30 am); WP vs KZN Raiders (1 pm); KZN Midlands vs EP Settlers (2.30 pm); North West vs Namibia (4 pm); Southern Gauteng vs SA U21 (5.30 pm).

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