THE 2010 edition of the South African Interprovincial Men’s Hockey Tournament (IPT) begins at the KC March Stadium in the Port Elizabeth suburb of Gelvandale on Monday, and the chances of KZN Coastal Raiders retaining their crown will be severely tested by the likes of last year’s finalists Southern Gauteng, bronze medallists Western Province and fourth-placed Northerns Blues.
SA Hockey World’s Jonathan Cook writes that there will also be a spirited challenge from the hosts, Eastern Province, who are sure to enjoy big support from their local fans, as well as neighbours Border, who return to the A Section after winning the B Section last year in Pietermaritzburg in a close final against an inspired South African Country Districts.
KZN Inland are the dark horses while the Western Province B side, Peninsula, make up the last squad in the top eight division who challenge for the most coveted trophy in South African domestic hockey.
The B Section, whose winners automatically are promoted to next year’s A Section, looks to be an open race between a hurting North West, who lost an agonisingly close seventh/eighth A Section relegation play-off to Pens in a penalty stroke shootout last year, and the likes of KZN Mynahs, their upcountry neighbours, KZN Inland B, as well as Free State, Witwatersrand and the men who come from South Africa’s country areas that make up the fiery SACD combination.
Although they are always capable of upsetting the more fancied teams, there is little chance that the likes of Northern Cape, Eastern Province Settlers, Southern Cape and Mpumalanga are serious contenders for promotion to the elite, top eight level of South African men’s hockey.
The South African selectors under the head of the panel, Mike Bechet, and including national head coach Gregg Clark, will be keeping a beady eye on the B Section players as much as those in the A Section, as there is always the chance that a diamond in the rough reminiscent of Kimberley-born former SA forward Ally Fredericks, can be discovered among the minnow provinces.
Mpumalanga v KZN Mynahs, Southern Cape v Wits, North West v Free State, EP Settlers v SACD.
The A Section begins Tuesday.