Province retain men’s title

2008-05-11 00:00

Western Province successfully defended their men’s interprovincial hockey crown with a hard-earned 3-2 victory over team-of-the-tournament Southern Gauteng at a noisy Absa NWU-Puk Hockey Stadium in Potchefstroom on Saturday evening.

“We had our chances, but I guess we only scored two while they got three. It was a wonderful exhibition of character and fortitude by both sides and perhaps Province’s defence and superior experience was the difference, but I must pay tribute to my side for a fine tournament,” said Southerns coach Gareth Ewing afterwards.

“It started tentatively, but once the first goal was scored, it opened up and became a fight,” said WP coach Pierre le Roux. “Our SA players were sick during IPT, Andrew Cronje didn’t play today, but the guys gutsed it out and that was the bottom line.

“Southerns missed chances they put in yesterday and the day before, while our back four were superb today … It was always going to be a confrontation between their front three and our back four. This year we creaked at the seams a bit — it was easier last year in East London — but the guys showed wonderful character of purpose to pull through.”

And in what was something of a surprise considering their disappointing defeat by five goals at the hands of the excellent North West team on Friday, KZN Midlands dug deep to come back from a 1-0 deficit at half-time to beat Eastern Province 2-1. Defender Jethro Eustice was outstanding and Midlands deserved seventh on this performance.

The battle for fifth spot was an absorbing affair between outstanding coach Paul Revington’s North West team — apart from the IPT finalists the success story of the tournament — and SA U21 coach Kurt Cerfontyne’s talented national juniors. The host province were full value for their 2-0 victory, with a pair of superbly struck field goals the cherry on the top.

Despite the 4-1 scoreline, the entertaining match for third place between Durban’s KZN Raiders and Pretoria’s Northerns Blues wasn’t all one-way traffic. The difference was, Raiders made their circle entries count while the Blues frittered away a number of gilt-edged opportunities.

Lungi Tsolekile, as in the epic semi-final won 17-16 by WP in a penalty-stroke shootout — arguably the longest in history — was outstanding for the Blues, and this augurs well for the national team’s trip to Beijing that sees them fly out today.

His fellow SA striker, Geoff Abbott of Raiders, continued encouraging, while national striker, Marvin Harper, was brilliant in parts. And a man unlucky not to be going on the trip to Beijing, SA left-half Gareth Carr, reinforced his value to Raiders and the national team once again.

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