Western Province, the defending champs, cemented their place in Saturday’s 1pm final with a game to spare when they beat a feisty Free State 5-0 to make certain of ending tops in Pool A.
The other Pool A clash saw Southern Gauteng beat South Gauteng Witsies 7-1 while in the early Pool B match, Western Province Peninsula (Pens) edged Eastern Province 1-0 thanks to a goal by Rushin October.
The upshot is that the KZN derby at 3pm Thursday is crucial for Raiders, but derbies are always uncertain affairs and host province Inland will be keen to upstage their Durban rivals for local bragging rights.
Another Pool B clash of great importance sees Blues tackle Pens at 11am. Pretoria’s Blues must make certain of victory, as it is their last match in this round. Pens, however, are punching above their weight – as is characteristic of Western Province’s second side – and the outcome is far from clear-cut.
Pens meet Raiders at 11am Friday in the last round, so Thursday is crucial.
Blues will rue missing out on three great chances against Raiders, but a draw was also reward for the Durban lads who gave everything and more in this clash.
Blues’ potent penalty corner machine was responsible for their two goals, both by captain Tim Guise-Brown, while Javed Mea followed up a penalty corner rebound for the Raiders’ first goal and the sheer grit of Tylo Remke made sure of the equaliser.
WP nailed their five goals against the Bloem lads through the usual suspects, Ryan Crowe (2), James Drummond (2) and Nqobile Ntuli. It was 3-0 inside seven minutes, and WP now stand on 21 goals with none against after three matches.
Southern Gauteng’s goals came from a Brandon James hat-trick plus strikes by Winchester Scott, James Gilbert, Kyle Lion-Cachet and Stuart Brown. South Gauteng Witsies’ lone goal was from Brandon Grant.
Western Province Peninsula 1 Eastern Province 0; KZN Coastal Raiders 2 Northern Blues 2; Southern Gauteng 7 vs South Gauteng Witsies 1; Western Province 5 Free State 0.
(matches in brackets, goal difference, log points)
Pool A: 1 Western Province (3) GD21, 9pts; 2 Southern Gauteng (3) GD1, 4pts; 3 Free State (2) GD-5, 1pt; 4 South Gauteng Witsies (2) GD-7, 1pt; 5 North West (2) GD-11, 1pt.
Pool B: 1 Northern Blues (3) GD6, 7pts; 2 Western Province Peninsula (2) GD2, 6pts; 3 KZN Raiders (2) GD2, 4pts; 4 KZN Inland (2) GD-5, 0pts; 5 Eastern Province (3) GD-5 0pts.
Thursday - 9am WP vs Wits; 11am Blues vs Pens; 1pm Free State vs North West; 3pm KZN Inland vs KZN Raiders.