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OJ Eagles, Western Warriors rule the Currie Cup roost

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By Mark Etheridge

The cream of South African water polo came to the surface at the recent Currie Cup competition in Stellenbosch, with Gauteng and Western Cape sharing the spoils with one trophy apiece.

This year saw the traditional format of the event moving away from provincial to club competition, which resulted in more teams being included and hailed as a successful decision.

The men’s spoils went to OJ Eagles of Gauteng once again as they sealed their 13th title in the last 15 years. But they certainly didn’t have things all their own way, as SACS Old Boys pushed them all the way in the final,

And the women’s final saw the Western Warriors beating Buffalo City 10-4 in the final. The women’s section was dominated by Western Cape teams, with three of the top four teams being from this region.

Said national captain Pierre le Roux, part of the winning OJ Eagles line-up: ‘SACS OB were truly fantastic. They took control from the first minute and really put us under pressure.

‘I’m very proud of my team though, for sticking to our game plan and trusting that it would pay off in the end. To win the last chukka 4-1 and to take the lead for the first time with 1:22 left on the clock was some seriously nerve-racking stuff.

‘The final score of 7-6 reflected how tight the game actually was and what a fantastic weekend of water polo.’

Le Roux’s women’s captain counterpart Kelsey White played for Gauteng, who failed to make the top four. ‘We lost to a team which we really shouldn’t have lost to,’ she says. ‘It was a very good tournament with lots of great teams competing. It was fabulous to have it at another venue and for the water polo community to see what Stellenbosch University does for water polo.

‘The level of play was high, with many of the teams having very close games, which shows water polo is gaining some momentum in South Africa. The U18 sections were also very competitive and it was good to see there’s a lot of good potential coming through.’

Captain of the winning Rondebosch-based Western Warriors side was Vikki Quarmby, who says: ‘Western Province were in the fortunate position of being able to field four competitive ladies teams. We knew this would mean that this year’s tournament would be more challenging, as our club teams would be competing against provincial teams from other parts of the country.

‘With this knowledge, our team put in some proper training. Our coach, Alex Hawkins, gave us swim sets to complete which we all committed to and enjoyed the process of getting fit together. We are so lucky in the Western Cape to have four (sometimes five) competitive ladies teams that compete against each other on a weekly basis in our club league.

‘I think that this was, without a doubt, a massive contributing factor to our success.

‘Each team that we played in the tournament had some very talented and experienced players, so we knew that we needed to take each game seriously and play all four chukkas with control and intensity.

‘We have a very diverse set of strengths in our team – some real speedsters and also very solid centre-forward and back players. Each person took responsibility for performing their role well.’

Quarmby also paid tribute to a particular star of the side. ‘We have a 15-year-old girl in our side, Astrid Faustmann, who really put her hand up in our game against Gauteng, scoring two of our five goals at a critical time in the match. Having that kind of talent and depth in a club team at this level is a real gift. She is definitely a player to watch for the future.’

The skipper, at 28 the oldest member of the team [average age around 23], also says the final against Border was a most physical game. ‘They have a few individuals who are incredibly strong in their positions, as well as some experienced players. But we went in prepared and we were very pleased with the end result.’

Dwelling on the need for sponsorship in sport, she went on: ‘We were lucky enough to have our costumes and caps sponsored by Fruit Sizers, which made us look and feel the part and something that’s invaluable to a reasonably new club like Warriors.

‘Our coach and manager [Weston Crewe] are two very positive individuals and the whole team bought into each game’s plan wonderfully. We are incredibly happy with our results this tournament.’

Focus now turns to preparations for the EU Nations Cup and the FINA World Championships.

Poland will host the Men’s EU Cup between 19-21 May. The tournament has grown larger this year and will see teams from around Europe competing in the competition.

This tournament will serve as final preparation for the senior men’s team before they depart for Budapest – FINA World Championships 2017.

The men’s team will be confirmed soon, once all selectors have compared notes after this past weekend’s tournament. OJ Eagles, SACS and Maties are surely to be well-represented in the team.

Important fixtures this year.
1 Men’s EU Nations Cup, Poland – 19-21 May
2 Ladies EU Nations Cup, Czech Republic – 19-21 July
3 FINA World Championships, Hungary – 14-30 July
4 World University Championships, China – Participation to be confirmed
5 Under-20 World Men’s Championships  – venue and dates to be confirmed
6 Under-20 World Ladies Championships – Greece 3-9 September


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