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DEFENDING their titles, St Anne’s College and Pieter- maritzburg­ Girls’ High regained their regional crowns in the Pietermaritzburg­ North Regional and Pietermaritzburg Central Regional at the SPAR KZN School Girls’ Hockey Challenge in Pietermaritzburg this weekend.

St Anne’s College was in a league of their own at the AB Jackson fields. The team, led by former SA men’s coach Carlos Pereira, were clear favourites winning all of their games. In the big Hilton derby, they took on The Wykeham Collegiate in an exciting game, where Saints slotted in the all-important one goal that secured their overall win in the round-robin regional.

Howick High School, in top form with the bright coloured team kitted out in orange, fought hard on the turf and impressed with their skill, having vastly improved over the years.

Girls’ High is one of only two teams who have an undefeated track record in the history of this tournament. The “Green Machine” made it six in a row when they methodically worked their way to the top of their log. It wasn’t an easy ride to the top as Girls’ High drew with rival Epworth, early in their round-robin games. The two teams had an identical score sheet that had the tacticians number crunching the goal differences and “what if” scenarios­. In Epworth’s final game, they met third-placed Treverton. In the hard-fought tussle, the two teams ended their efforts 0-0, which gave Girls’ High their ticket to the finals.

St Anne’s College and Pietermaritzburg Girls High then went on to play in the cross regional final of the Parklane Superspar final where St Anne’s were lucky enough to slot in one goal.

Girls’ High dug down deep against Saints and were disappointed to find the back of the net twice only to have the goals disallowed as the umpires didn’t play advantage. The two will meet again at the grand finals in July in Kloof.

“Pietermaritzburg, as usual, did not disappoint. We are always impressed with the level of hockey being played in these regions. The teams played fantastic hockey but importantly with commitment and enthusiasm and demonstrated great spirit,” said Les Galloway, tournament director­.

“At one point, for example, when one of the Alexandra High team’s goalie was injured, Epworth’s goalie stepped into the breach. Now that’s superb­ sportsmanship.”

“Both regionals were played at new tournament venues, and we were pleased with how smoothly and efficiently everything went,” said Rob Philipson, MD of Spar KZN.

“Family and friends turned out to support their teams, and the sense of it being an important sporting occasion was felt by all, of course with some pretty impressive hockey as well.”

Two umpires at the tournament were awarded the title of Most Promising Umpires. Shining in the Pietermaritzburg Central Regional was Sibusiso Ndlovu, a pupil from Voortrekker High, who was representing Epworth High. Being recognised for his efforts at the Pietermaritzburg North Regional was up-and-coming umpire Matthew Memar from Grace College who was representing Linpark High at the tournament.

St Anne’s and Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High will join the newcomer team Sarel Cilliers from Glencoe, winners of the KZN North regional, and Durban Girls’ College who took the honours in the Durban Central Regionals.

These four teams will be joined by six teams from around KwaZulu-Natal at the grand finals at St Mary’s DSG in July.

The next regional will be the Durban South Regional that takes place at 3 Schools Trust on 9 April.

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