The winds were blowing at nearly 30km an hour in Durban today, almost symbolically sweeping the South African Indoor Hockey Inter Provincial Tournament into the coastal city. If the wind was fast, the hockey took up another level with some outstanding moments produced on day one of the historic tournament.
Although the main story of the tournament will be who wins, there will be two outstanding stories that develop throughout the weekend. The first is the long awaited return of the Northern Blues in both the Men’s and Ladies tournaments and the second is the ongoing development of Mpumalanga as a hockey region for South Africa.
Southern Gauteng would like to go further this year than they did last year, when they fell out in the Semi-Finals and they welcomed SA outdoor superstar Lilian du Plessis into their fold. In the opening game against North West they secured a 1-0 through UJ’s Lanne Rossouw. The KZN Mynahs also picked up a first round victory with surprising ease as they despatched of KZN inland 6-0 with both Carla van Niekerk and Jessica Lardant netting braces.
An incredibly young Western Province side showed their intent early on with a good 6-2 victory over Mpumalanga. Two players with Nationals caps, Heather McEwan and Natasha Rootenberg, each scored 2. The Raiders and Northern Blues completed the Round 1 action where the Blues held their own against their much favoured opposition. Eventually the Raiders emerged 4-1 victors thanks largely to Kara Botes popping up with two goals.
The second round of matches featured a superb display by the KZN Mynahs to dispatch of Mpumalanga. The incredible talent of Namibia’s 16 year old superstar Kiana Cormack caught this writer’s eye as she impressed with work rate and a finishing ability that many more experienced players would love. Inspired by Heather McEwan, Western Province got their second victory of the day beating KZN inlands 3-0, while the Raiders did a workman-like performance in putting 5-2 victory past a plucky North West.
The game of the day was the Gauteng derby as the two sides of the Juskei battled it out to be the provinces top team. The Blues, featuring a very Outdoor Hockey flavoured side, showed fantastic effort and application in leading 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2. But two late goals from Lilian du Plessis, one a superb reverse stick flick, meant Southern Gauteng shared the points in an absolute classic.
It appears if you want a crazy, exciting, edge of your seat match, you need to be a KZN Inland supporter. Both of their games were decided by just the solitary goal, first coming from behind to beat KZN Mynahs, while never really closing the door. Their second win was a cracker in beating Northerns 6-5 in a very vociferous game.
Southern Gauteng, Western Province and KZN Raiders all showed why they are favourites for the top four with a pair of victories. Western Province scored 26 goals in their two games, mostly through Dale Isaac and Ryan Julius, while Southern Gauteng netting 20 to sit just behind. Tomorrow morning the two heavyweights will play for top spot in their group and the “easier” cross pool game in the afternoon session.
The defending champions had no problems in a comfortable 7-2 victory against the Northern Blues men, with a hat-trick from Geoff Abbott, and then beating their “B” side the Mynahs with very little difficulty.
Remember you can follow the tournament at the SA Hockey Tournament Management System site here https://saha.altiusrt.com/