The new format for the 2016 Greenfields Senior Interprovincial Nationals is turning into a disaster for Tuffy Western Province as both their men’s and women’s sides were knocked out in the quarterfinals on Thursday at the Randburg Hockey Stadium.
The women, beaten finalists last year, were the first to depart as the young but highly-talented North-West team beat them in a sudden-death shootout after they played to a 3-3 draw in regulation time.
Less than an hour later, the Western Province men, the defending champions, were shocked 3-1 by Northerns Blues.
The Western Province women discovered in the opening minute how dangerous North-West are as goalkeeper Anelie van Deventer saved a short-corner and the Mielieboere immediately swept upfield earning a short corner.
North-West coach Shaun Hulley is clearly a fan of the short-corner variation and a lovely interchange of passes between Danielle de Wet and Martinette Mans saw Mans score the opening goal.
The Western Province penalty corner set-up is also an accomplished one, however, and, in the sixth minute, Bronwyn Kretzman swept the ball past Van Deventer at her near post, after a good variation saw the ball go wide left from the castle.
North-West dominated the rest of the first half, earning a couple more short corners without reward, and they also piled on the pressure at the start of the second half.
Western Province defended tenaciously however, getting through the tough period and then showed that they are also dangerous on the break as they suddenly burst upfield and Natasha Rootenberg buried the goal deep in the net to give the more fancied team a 2-1 lead.
Four minutes later, Gretchin Davids latched on to a loose ball in the D and flipped it into the goal to give Western Province a comfortable 3-1 lead.
But just two minutes later, they were embroiled in a desperate and ultimately hapless battle for survival as North-West scored twice in quick succession to level the scores.
The first goal came from a short corner that was initially well-saved by goalkeeper Nicole le Fleur, but Stephanie Baxter slammed the rebound into the net with a fine strike.
North-West were soon back in the Western Province D and although a short corner did not work out for them, they were given a hit just outside the circle. Sulette Damons, who played in the 2012 Olympics and is one of the hopefuls to appear in Rio later this year, took the hit quickly and sent a tremendous reverse-sticks shot rocketing into the goal.
North-West actually had the better chances to claim the winning goal in the closing stages, including a run of three successive short-corners, but ultimately the teams went into a shootout once the hour of regulation time was done.
Both teams could only notch a single goal each in the initial round of five shots each, so it went to sudden death.
Baxter (NW) and Heather McEwan (WP) both scored going first for their teams, followed by two misses each. But then Sinalo Jafta produced a top-class piece of improvisation, lobbing the goalkeeper after her initial shot had been saved, to put North-West one-up.
Van Deventer then produced a last crucial save for North-West, blocking Candice Manuel’s attempt at goal, and North-West were in a semi-final for the first time in many years.
Spar KwaZulu-Natal Raiders held sway over the SA U21s in the other early women’s quarterfinal, beating the international juniors 2-1.
KZN Raiders went 2-0 up through a field goal by Kate Koenig and a short-corner scramble completed by Donna Small, but they courted danger for much of the second half as Anneke Beukman scored to bring the SA U21s to within a goal.
Ultimately, it was a case of experience and strength on the ball that won the day for the Raiders, the SA U21s losing composure at crucial times as well as three players injured on duty.
photos by Reg Caldecott