The past month saw the best of the best in South African hockey converge on Kwazulu Natal for the annual Inter provincial hockey tournament for both men’s and ladies. In a fortnight that will be remembered for historic results, massive upsets and incredibly high quality of hockey, the winners were not the favourites in either tournament. Let’s look at the winners of the hockey showpiece
Ladies IPT Hockey – Northern Blues
At the start of the tournament few had given hope to anyone other than the Southern Gauteng team led by Lisa Deetlefs, the experienced international with a squad full of Investec SA ladies. The favourites started with a walloping against EP to further fuel all speculation that they would canter to a victory. In the other pool it was Western Province who started with a splash, while Northern Blues battled to a 2-0 win over the KZN Raiders. The Blues then caused the first surprise of the tournament as they beat WP 2-0 in a match that was dominated by the coastal side. The victory left the Blues to take command of Group B, while Southerns epic encounter with North West left the Johannesburg side in command in Group A.
A comfortable victory against Border for Northerns coupled with Southerns brushing aside their “B” side meant the semi-finals would see the fan final featuring Southerns and WP. Northerns would take on the ladies from Potch in the other semi-final.
Northerns skated through their semi-final once again spear-headed by Jacinta Jubb and would face the winner of Southerns and Western Province for a shot at their first ever IPT title. The team they would face was decided as Western Province as the Cape side beat their much fancied opposition when Tarryn Bright scored with just 5 minutes remaining.
And so to the final. The Western Province side who had won numerous IPT titles over the years against the Northern Blues side who were looking for their first silverware ever. It was Western Province that took the early advantage to lead 1-0 at half-time. But the Pretoria side fought back with the tenacity of champions and equalised through Kim Hubach. The game would not be decided either way and would go the distance to the dreaded penalty shootout.
After a sudden death round was needed, it was the Northerns Blues who secured victory when Chanelle van Zyl converted her chance and the Province celebrated their first ever victory at the IPT. Lilian du Plessis secured the top goalscorer of the tournament underlying that there is life after Pietie Coetzee for SA Hockey. Jacinta Jubb was awarded the most promising player while veteran Tarryn Bright was named overall player of the tournament.
Mens IPT Hockey – WP Peninsula
If the ladies IPT produced history, the Mens IPT would absolutely smash history. The tournament was expected to be decided with a repeat of last year’s final between WP and Southern Gauteng, while hosts the KZN Raiders were seen as the true underdogs.
From day 1 though, the tournament started showing the promise for surprises as WP Peninsula, the Western Province “B” team, scored a late equaliser through Marc Fourie to secure a draw with KZN Raiders. Tuffy Western Province played some sumptuous hockey in their comfortable victory over the Southern Gauteng Wits (The SG “B” team) and Southerns demolished KZN Inlands in a game that underlined the gulf in class.
The next round of fixtures all went to form with Pens, Wits, Southerns and Province all winning. The Southerns win was a tight 1-0 victory over KZN Raiders. It set up the final round of fixtures for an epic finish, with Wits and Northerns facing off in an effective quarter-final in Pool A. WP Pens could make the semis in pool B if they avoided defeat against Southerns.
And avoid defeat they did as they battled with injuries and a strong Southern Gauteng side in a superb 2-2 draw that meant for the first time in history Pens would be in the top 4. The match of the tournament was produced in the other group as Wits were beaten to the semi-final spot in a 5-3 defeat to Northern Blues. And so the semi-finals would be WP against their B team Pens and Southerns would take on Gauteng neighbours Northerns.
Southerns easily beat Northerns after an early fright, but Clinton Panther, Nic Spooner (2) and Ricky West led last year’s losing finalists get a shot at redemption. They would be facing a WP side in that final and would have expected to face the defending champions, but Pens had other ideas and produced the biggest shock in South African hockey history when goals from Ryan Julius and Marc Fourie coupled with tenacious defence meant that Pens would compete in the final ahead of their “A” side. It was the first time since Wits made the final in 1996 that a B side qualified for the final.
The fairy-tale did not end their though as captain fantastic Steve Evans led a dogged defensive display to emerge victorious over their International packed and much fancied opposition. Evans himself and Dave Agar scored the goals as Pens buckled down and held Southerns out (after Nic Spooner got 1) under immense pressure to become the first “B” team to ever win South Africa’s premier hockey tournament. This was very much the story of David triumphing over Goliath in the perfect romance of sport!
Pierre de Voux secured the top goalscorer gong, while Keenan Horne was the most promising player of the tournament and Tim Drummond was player of the tournament without even playing in the top four.