Written by: Laurel Oettle
The South African Inter-Provincial Canoe Polo Championships took place at the University of KwaZulu Natal swimming pool in Pietermaritzburg this past weekend, the 22nd and 23rd March, with fantastic growth and development visible across all the provinces with the host union claiming the spoils in both the men’s and women’s events.
The KZN and Gauteng teams have been long-running competitors for the title of South African Champions, and the KZN men’s team were determined to regain the title that Gauteng has secured for the previous two years.
The home team managed to secure a 4 – 2 victory in an exciting final against the Gauteng A men’s side, which had the crowd gasping and cheering a number of times. To make the event even more interesting, a dynamic Gauteng U21 team entered the competition in the senior men’s category in preparation for the upcoming World Canoe Polo Championships. They had a very close game against their own Gauteng A men’s team before playing a nail-biting play-off against a hugely improved Western Cape A team.
National men’s coach and tournament organiser Clive Whitton was very happy with how the weekend went.
“It’s nice to see the Western Cape guys giving it a good run,” he said. “The third place play-off that they were involved in went to Golden Goal at the end so they were unlucky not to finish third. The standard this weekend has been very good.”
The KZN women had to work hard to secure a 3 – 1 win over a determined Gauteng team, with the best women’s team the Western Cape has ever produced playing competitively to take the bronze medal ahead of the lone U21 ladies team, from KZN.
In the U21 category, the Gauteng U21 team got off to a slow start on the first day of the tournament, finishing bottom of the league after the pool games, with the KZN U21 team undefeated, and the two Western Cape U21 teams in second and third. The semi-finals on Sunday morning saw a huge turn-around when the KZN U21 lost to a revitalised Gauteng U21 team, with National Women’s Squad members Dani Alfonso Da Silva and Sarah Goldshagg showing excellent form playing within the mixed team, and the team working well as a unit.
They went on to win the final 4 – 2 against a hugely improved Western Cape U21 A team, while the KZN U21 team had to settle for the bronze medal position ahead of the Western Cape U21 B team.
The development work in the Western Cape, which has been driven by National Committee member Samantha Braid, has been showing amazing results, and the improvement in these young players from their first major tournament at the African Championships last September until now is fantastic to see.
The next event on the South African Canoe Polo Calendar will bring the action back to KwaZulu Natal when the inaugural Durban International Canoe Polo tournament is held at Shongweni Dam on the 24th and 25th May. This event will see the South African men’s, ladies and U21 men’s teams, which will be selected next month, pitted against visiting Namibian teams as both nations gear up their preparation for the 2014 ICF Canoe Polo World Championships in France this September.