Saturday’s 1pm final is set to be the classic battle between the hot favourite and the unfancied underdog, although two weapons in Blues’ favour is their penalty corner attack with captain Tim Guise-Brown the primary finisher, as well as the game-breaking skills of Stephen Cant in confined spaces.
Blues under head coach Stewart Dunbar are a pretty solid outfit and won’t stand back. But senior SA player Dan Bell’s WP team are superb in every department and there can be few times in history that a team has so dominated, and so impressed, in the Pool round of an IPT.
Young WP goalkeeper Rob McKinley is a major talent – yet he has hardly seen action. Captain Bell’s men have scored 29 goals in five matches and conceded none. They have a host of goal-scorers who can change a game in an instant. Yet it is probably the cohesion and innate sense of purpose in coach Bruce Jacobs’ team that is their biggest weapon of all.
The biggest match Friday saw KZN Coastal Raiders needing an unlikely win by eight clear goals over Western Province Peninsula (Pens) to pip Blues for a berth in the final. At worst they needed a draw with Pens to ensure a shot at the bronze medal.
Pens, however, were on fire and despite not converting a penalty stroke in the second minute, the Western Cape lads then nailed down goals in the fifth and sixth minutes from field and set-piece play. At 2-0 up, they then hit the post! It could have been 4-0 in next to no time. It was a stunning start by canny coach Jason Mulder’s lads.
Raiders managed to pull a goal back in the 18th minute and did have other opportunities, but so did Pens, who effectively sealed the 3-1 final result four minutes before half-time when Ryan Cameron did the honours. The second half had action aplenty, but the goals didn’t come, not that it mattered to the delighted Pens team.
Whether Pens can knock off Southern Gauteng in the 11am battle for third place and the bronze medals at the AB Jackson Saturday is open to debate, but it would not surprise many at all. Indeed, Southerns arguably go into this bronze medal match as underdogs.
KZN Inland and Eastern Province were in search of nothing less than three points when they met in Friday’s late game to see who would dodge last place in Pool B.
Again it was a rousing affair and it was host province KZN Inland who emerged 2-1 winners, the goals going to Maritzburg College captain Tyson Dlungwana and his U21 captain Le Neal Jackson. There were anxious moments for KZN Inland fans after EP had pulled a goal back through the efforts of Dillan Langeveld with seven minutes to go, but the Maritzburg lads survived.
They meet North West 9am at AB Jackson Saturday for fifth and sixth place. North West were outstanding in holding hockey heavyweights Southern Gauteng to a 2-1 scoreline with just four minutes left Friday. However, a Brandon James hat-trick for Southerns in the ultimate 4-2 victory was deserved reward for the industrious forward and his team-mates.
Free State were good value for their 2-1 win over South Gauteng Witsies and they Raiders 10.30am Saturday at Maritzburg College for fifth and sixth. Free State scored through the ultra-brave Cheslyn Neethling who has been a warrior supreme for the Bloem lads this week.
Witsies face EP in the wooden spoon match (ninth and 10th) at 8.30am Saturday at Maritzburg College.
(All played 5. GD: goal difference)
1 Western Province GD29, 12pts
2 Southern Gauteng GD4, 7pts
3 Free State GD-4, 5pts
4 North West GD-14, 2pts
5 South Gauteng Witsies GD-15, 1pt.
1 Northern Blues GD10, 10pts
2 Western Province Peninsula GD0, 9pts
3 KZN Coastal Raiders GD1, 7pts
4 KZN Inland GD-5, 3pts
5 Eastern Province GD-6 0pts.
Saturday at AB Jackson:
(7th/8th) 9am KZN Inland vs North West
(3/4 for bronze medal) 11am WP Peninsula vs Southern Gauteng
(1/2 title match for gold medal) 1pm WP vs Northern Blues
Saturday at Maritzburg College: (9th/10th) 8.30am EP vs Witsies; (5th/6th) 10.30am Free State vs KZN Coastal Raiders.
Friday results: Free State 2 Wits 1; KZN Raiders 1 Pens 3; Southerns 4 North West 1; KZN Inland 2 EP 1.