The Tivoli Blyde River Bunters suffered their first defeat of the Premier Hockey League in Johannesburg today. And it came at the unlikely hands of last year’s women’s wooden spoon recipients – the Orange River Rafters.
But apart from slightly denting their confidence, it did nothing to affect the outcome of the Bunters’ progress to the playoff stages of the competition, nor their position at the top of the log.
It was yet another remarkable result for the Rafters, defeating the defending women’s champions 3-0 to earn themselves an all-important bonus point, which was necessary for a place in tomorrow’s semifinals. They also had to rely on the Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies beating the TopT Madikwe Rangers later in the afternoon to go through.
That match went straight to a shootout after a thunderstorm played havoc with the afternoon’s fixtures. And the Daisies duly played their part, winning the shootout 3-1 of knock the 2016 runners-up out of the tournament.
Earlier, goals from Sulette Damons, Jackie Scheepers and Chane Hartel were what did it for the Rafters, who have had an up-and-down tournament so far, but have managed to win when it counted.
Speaking about inflicting a first defeat on the Bunters, Damons said: “It feels great and gives us a lot of confidence going into the semis. Everyone just played freely and did what they needed to do and that’s in the end what gave us the victory. We kept fighting and moved the ball more and everyone just kept believing.”
A visibly upset Bunters (and SA national) captain, Nicolene Terblanche, said: “We didn’t play well today so we didn’t deserve the win. Credit to the Rafters – they definitely deserved it.”
The Bunters will face the Rafters once again, in tomorrow’s semifinal.
Meanwhile, the men’s defending champions, the Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen head into the semis in scorching form. They will take on the Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants in their semifinal in a repeat of last year’s gold-medal match.
The Cavemen’s only loss of the tournament was in a rain-affected match against the Garden Route Gazelles on the opening weekend that went straight to a shootout. But today, they produced a characteristically impressive performance to beat the Mapungubwe Mambas 2-0, with goals coming from Chad Futcher, off a penalty corner in the sixth minute, and Cerezo Comerasamy just before the end of the third quarter.
With both teams already through to the semis before the match started, the only factor riding on the result was which one would finish top of the men’s log.
“It was hugely important to top the group and go into the semis with some confidence,” said Cavemen coach Mark Sanders afterwards. “There are no easy games in the next round but the team coming in fourth is under a bit more pressure than the team finishing second or third so we’re happy to fight from the top of the log.
“I think the Elephants are a side coming into form but so are we, so I think it’ll be tough. I think the extra day’s rest they’ve had will put them in some good areas. There’s still a load of things for us to work on like being clinical in the circle. We’re creating a lot of opportunities but not taking as many as we’d like. Defensively we’ve still got to manage certain pressure areas and I think we’ll be better.”
The ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons finished in third spot on the log after the Garden Route Gazelles beat them 4-2 in another straight-to-shootout match because of the thunderstorm. The Dragons will play the Mambas in Monday’s other men’s semifinal. The struggling Gazelles went into the match needing an unlikely 11-goal winning margin if they were to make it to the semis.
Meanwhile, tomorrow’s other women’s semifinal will be contested between the Daisies and the Private Property St Lucia Lakers. The Lakers found themselves two goals down against the Wineland Wings after Tarryn Glasby and Liné Malan found the back of the net. But goals from Erin Hunter and Tiffany Jones levelled the scores at 2-2 and the Lakers eventually won the resulting shootout 2-1.
“We definitely started off slowly and we kept trying to encourage each other to light that fire that we know we have,” said Lakers captain and player of the match Shelley Jones. “It took a little while – I don’t think our gas burners were quite turned on yet. We eventually switched them on in the second half, which we’re kind of known for. We seem to score most of our goals in the third and fourth quarters so we knew if we just persisted with what we were doing, we’d hopefully come back and that’s what we did, which was great”
10 December 2017:
Private Property St Lucia Lakers 2-2 (2-1 shootout) Wineland Wings
Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen 2-0 Mapungubwe Mambas
Tivoli Blyde River Bunters 3-0 Orange River Rafters
Garden Route Gazelles 4-2 (shootout) ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons
Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies 3-1 (shootout) TopT Madikwe Rangers
11 December 2017:
12pm: Private Property St Lucia Lakers v Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies
2pm: Mapungubwe Mambas v ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons
4pm: Tivoli Blyde River Bunters v Orange River Rafters
6pm: Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen v Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants
Final log standings
- Crossroads Maropeng Cavemen
- Mapungubwe Mambas
- ProGrip Drakensberg Dragons
- Kilimanjaro Addo Elephants
- Garden Route Gazelles
- Old Mutual iWYZE Golden Gate Gladiators
- Tivoli Blyde River Bunters
- Private Property St Lucia Lakers
- Old Mutual iWYZE Namaqualand Daisies
- Orange River Rafters
- TopT Madikwe Rangers
- Wineland Wings