U21 hockey interprovincials at knifepoint after day four

2010-04-30 00:00

THERE was high drama on day four of the SA men’s and women’s U21 interprovincial hockey tournaments yesterday.

Upsets carved holes in the race for top spots in the two pools in Pietermaritzburg (women) and Potchefstroom respectively, the challenge for title honours now going down to today’s last round before Saturday’s classification matches, the highlight being the 3 pm finals.

At the AB Jackson Greenfields Turf in PMB, rank underdogs Namibia shocked everyone by holding one of the IPT favourites, Western Province, to a 1-1 draw, while tournament surprise packet Free State beat fancied KZN Coastal 4-2.

The result is that there are a couple of pool “finals” in the last round today.

The 9 am clash at Maritzburg College’s Pape’s Astro sees the focused Free State side needing to beat WP to win Pool A. Granted, had WP beaten Namibia, the same situation would have prevailed, but such was the woeful nature of the Capetonians’ performance, there is no doubt the money’s on the confident Bloemfontein girls right now. This should be a crackerjack match as WP are hurting and need to redeem themselves.

The “final” to determine who wins Pool B sees SA U18, crushing 9-0 victors over KZN Inland, tackling the equally unbeaten North West at the ABJ from 1 pm. The experience of senior national representative Loreen Irvine and SA Junior World Cup players like Sulette Damons and Celia Evans should give coach Sheldon Rostron’s North West girls the edge in a must-win for them, as the juniors need only draw.

In virtually every other match today, there is significance, so expect great entertainment.

Regarding criticisms brought to this writer’s attention and mentioned in previous Witness reports as to the SA juniors’ participation, pool allocations, lack of crosspool play-offs and the timing of the two tournaments, SA Hockey Association president Dave Carr told The Witness yesterday that critics must, in the case of junior national sides, look at the bigger picture, and with regard to the other concerns, hold their provincial representatives to account for decisions made at national meetings.

In Potchefstroom, SA U18 manager Brandon Swart said the unbeaten Free State U21 side — another impressive example of how that province’s hockey has taken off with the arrival of “Mr Fix-It” Mickey Gordon in Bloemfontein — took their chances in a 3-0 win over the national juniors, which virtually guarantees them the Pool A berth in the final.

In what was a sad day for WP, their men were shocked 1-0 by Northerns, which means their clash with unbeaten Southern Gauteng is a must-win if they are to reach the final ahead of their Johannesburg-based rivals.

For the record, WP beat Pens 4-1 and not 6-0, while Mike Bechet is master in charge of hockey at Maritzburg College, not the previous incumbent, Swart, who is now chairman of Inland boys’ hockey.

Meanwhile, KZN Inland are hosting a workshop for current and beginner umpires on Monday from 5.30 pm at the ABJ. Attendees must e-mail igriffiths@epworth.co.za by today.

RESULTS

Women: North West 3 EP 1; South Gauteng 5 WP Peninsula 2; SA U18 9 KZN Inland 0; Free State 4 KZN Coastal 2; WP 1 Namibia 1; Northerns 5 Witwatersrand 2.

Men: Free State 3 SA U18 0; Northerns 1 WP 0; Southerns 8 North West 0; KZN Coastal 5 Border 1; Pens 3 EP 0; KZN Inland 4 Wits 0.

FIXTURES

Women (ABJ unless stated): 9 am Free State vs WP (MC); 9 am Pens vs Namibia; 11 am Northerns vs EP (MC); 11 am KZN Inland vs Wits; 1 pm SA U18 vs North West; 3 pm Southerns vs KZN Coastal.

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