The KwaZulu-Natal Raiders will play defending champions Southern Gauteng in the first semi-final of the BDO Men’s Interprovincial hockey tournament in Cape Town on Friday while Tuffy Western Province will meet Northern Blues in the later clash that decides who will be in Saturday’s final.
Jon Cook reports that this was the outcome of Thursday’s final round of their Pool A and B matches in the top-tier A Section to decide who would qualify for the last four. In Pool B, KZN Raiders beat Witwatersrand 7-0 and Pretoria’s Northern Blues upset South Africa U21 3-1 while in Pool A, WP shaded Southerns 2-1.
WP ended top of Pool A with Southerns second, while Raiders topped Pool B with Northern Blues second.
In the fast-paced late game, which would decide who won Pool A to play Northern Blues in Friday’s semi-final, Tuffy Western Province and defending champs Southern Gauteng served up a thrilling spectacle.
Play swung from goalmouth to goalmouth in seconds and the extreme pace of Julian Hykes saw Southerns come close on a number of occasions, but it was WP who took the lead in the 10th minute when after good work by Callum Buchanan, Lungile Tsolekile hammered a loose ball with a venomous backhand shot that smashed into the backboard (1-0).
In the 27th minute WP defender Rhett Halkett made yards up the left wing before offloading to Tsolekile. Faced with two very good passing options, the Beijing 2008 Olympian chose the direct route with an inch-perfect pass to Ian Haley, who finished in razor-sharp fashion (2-0).
Hykes forced a penalty corner at the end of the half and Ricky West’s flick was brilliantly saved with an outstretched stick by goalkeeper Jacques le Roux, diving to his right, and five minutes after the changeover it was Le Roux again who denied Miguel da Grace at the set-piece.
With six minutes left Tommy Hammond smashed a Southerns penalty corner variation towards goal but Gregg Drake made a superb save on the line. However, Southerns were not to be denied two minutes later when Brandon Panther made no mistake from another PC (2-1).
With five seconds left Southerns midfielder Clinton Panther made ground into the strike zone but his shot was gloved away by Le Roux.
Northern Blues had to beat South Africa U21 for a place in the semi-finals, and the underdogs did it thanks to a supreme team effort. The Blues led 1-0 at half-time through a Matt Guise-Brown penalty corner before Keenan Horne levelled matters soon after the re-start. But two field goals in three minutes by an inspired Richard Pautz clinched matters for Northerns.
As a collective, Durban’s KZN Raiders had a poor first half against a determined Witwatersrand, but their national goalkeeper Gowan Jones made some vital saves to keep the scoreboard quiet. Indeed, the Raiders might have been trailing instead of going into the second half with a slender one-goal lead thanks to vice-captain Geoff Abbott
The Raiders re-grouped and gradually got their game back on track before scoring six goals in the last 20 minutes – a penalty corner by captain Wade Paton and field goals from Matt de Sousa, Taine Paton, Steve Wiggett (2) and Michael Botha.
In the lower-tier B Section competition, Border stunned defending champs South African Country Districts 6-1 via goals by Jason van Zyl (2), Reece Basson, and a hat-trick from Leroy Phillips. Border will meet Western Province Disas in Saturday’s 2 pm B Section final on Pitch B.
DAY FIVE RESULTS
A Section: North West 4 Free State 2; WP Peninsula 7 KZN Mynahs 3; KZN Raiders 7 Witwatersrand 0; Eastern Province 6 KZN Inland 1; Northern Blues 3 South Africa U21 1; Western Province 2 Southern Gauteng 1.
B Section: Border 6 SA Country Districts 1; Eastern Province Settlers 4 Namibia 1; WP Disas (bye).
FINAL A SECTION LOGS
(All played 5)
Pool A: 1 Tuffy Western Province (24 Goal Difference) 15 points; 2 Southern Gauteng (13 GD) 12 pts; 3 Fain Eastern Province (-1 GD) 6 pts; 4 KZN Inland (-8 GD) 6 pts; 5 North West (-13 GD) 3 pts; 6 Free State (-15 GD) 3 pts
Pool B: 1 KZN Raiders (24 GD) 15 pts; 2 Northern Blues (7 GD) 10 pts; 3 South Africa U21 (20 GD) 9 pts; 4 Witwatersrand (-9 GD) 5 pts; 5 Western Province Peninsula (-3 GD) 4 pts; 6 KZN Mynahs (-39 GD) 0 pts.