The 2016 South African Canoe Polo Championships dished up some enthralling excitement at Shongweni Dam over the weekend as the less-fancied KwaZulu-Natal team were too strong for Gauteng in the senior men’s final and the KZN women made it a double with victory over the Gauteng in a one-sided affair.
The KZN men’s side had lost to Gauteng in their first game in the round robin stages however had fought back to claim a 4-4 draw in their second encounter of the day, setting up the final between the two sides after KZN had beaten Western Province 8-4 and 8-0 previously.
The final was a ding-dong battle with both outfits eager to gain the ascendancy and, ultimately, the national crown.
It was, however, the underdogs, KZN who kept their cool and fought off their more fancied opponents to claim a 6-2 victory in a well-contested final.
Gauteng had earlier dismantled Western Province 11-2 and 13-1 in the round robin pool stage, putting them in the pound seats heading into the final.
It was the hosts who managed an unlikely victory though to claim their second national canoe polo title in three years after Gauteng stole the title from them in 2015.
In the women’s division the contest throughout did not represent the same see-saw battle that the men’s did, the KZN Women’s team proving too strong for the rest of the provinces and going through the entire tournament conceding just nine goals while they sent the ball into the back of the net close on 40 times.
The KZN women’s final saw them clash with their toughest opponents, the Gauteng U21 women’s team, but the game was relatively one-sided as the KZN ladies ran out 5-1 victors, claiming the well-deserved spoils and repeating their victory of 2014 in the process.
The Under-21 Men’s division was the only section that KwaZulu-Natal did not manage to win, having to settle for the silver medal following a closely contested 4-2 loss to Gauteng in the first final of the day.
The KZN U16 boys’ team were also in fine form throughout as they cantered away with the junior final’s spoils where they downed the Gauteng Homies team 5-1 to make it three of the four gold medals on offer for the host province.
Chairman of the South African Canoe Polo committee Chris de Bree was happy with the way the entire event unfolded and heaped praise on organisers and players for making the event such a success.
‘The event was most definitely one of the most enjoyable and well organised national championships to date,’ a satisfied De Bree mentioned. ‘There are some future stars coming up the ranks and it is exciting to see the high level of play between provinces.
‘The organising committee was happy with the fact that the event has grown from only seven teams to 12 teams and were delighted to a U16/development division for the first time in history.’
The canoe polo focus now shifts to the Durban International Canoe Polo Festival that takes place at the same Shongweni venue from 18-19 June.
Picture of KwaZulu-Natal’s senior men’s captain Dale Morphew (right) in action against Western Province courtesy of Laurel Oettle/Gameplan Media
Summary of results
Senior Men: 1 KwaZulu-Natal, 2 Gauteng, 3 Western Province Senior Women: 1 KwaZulu-Natal, 2 Gauteng U21, 3 KwaZulu-Natal U21 U21 Men: 1 Gauteng A, 2 KwaZulu-Natal, 3 Gauteng B U21 Women: 1 Gauteng U21, 2 KwaZulu-Natal U21 U16 Open/Development: 1 KwaZulu-Natal U16, 2 UMZ Development, 3 Gauteng U16