in Cape Town
The 7th Nolands Pro Series Indoor (PSI) Nationals U16 and U18 boys’ and girls’ gold medal matches that took place in Cape Town on Saturday produced some superb spectacles.
Indeed, any one of the casual spectators who wandered in to the Good Hope Centre on Finals Day could not have escaped the excitement and sheer drama that played out on in the title showdowns as well as the bronze medal matches on Courts 1 and 2.
The gold medal matches took place simultaneously on the adjacent courts and the quality of play kept fans enthralled and entertained as the action swung from one goalmouth to the other.
Some finals had relatively modest scores in comparison to the goal-for-goal exchanges in the preliminary rounds, but that does not imply the strike zones were quiet pieces of real estate. Rather, it is a tribute to the at times quite brilliant goalkeeping of the stoppers – and the skills of defenders match hardened and battle-fit after an intense eight or nine face-offs in three-and-a-half days.
The majority of players were on court for the better part of six hard match hours during that time and the quality of their play was the end result of discipline, dedication and sheer endurance, as well as the hard work put in by the coaching staff.
The Boys’ U18A final saw the Johannesburg Gryphons shade the Namibian Hawks – who were gunning for their first ever boys’ gold medal in A section PSI – by a 6-5 scoreline in a crackerjack encounter that could have gone either way.
The Girls’ U18A gold medal match saw the Johannesburg Gryphons edge the East Rand Quaggas 2-1 in another tense affair. The Quaggas’ girls were also seeking their first ever gold medal in A section PSI.
Doing the U18A boys’ and girls’ double was a triumph for the big Gryphons franchise owned by former SA striker and Atlanta 96 Olympian All Fredericks, but one had to feel for the Hawks and Quaggas franchises, who were both in search of their first titles at U18A level.
The Boys’ U16A final was a gripping match-up that many would have paid money to see – the Boland Foxes overpowering the East Rand Quaggas 5-3 in a match where the difference lay in the quality of the corner injection. The Foxes’ PC injectors were fast and accurate, thereby giving the trapper and drag-flicker time to execute with success.
To their credit, Foxes coach Luke Thonissen’s defenders were also immense against the likes of the talented Steven Paulo.
In the Western Cape derby, the Girls’ U16A gold medal match went the way of the Cape Town Seals to the tune of 4-1 over the Foxes.
The Boland Foxes franchise (which includes the Highland Scorpions teams) owned by former SA captain and double Olympian Bruce Jacobs was the runaway winner of the 2013 Franchise of the Year award.
There was also much joy for a new franchise, Brandon Swart’s Pietermaritzburg-based Midlands Stallions.
Under coach Richard Robertson the Stallions won the U18B girls’ final in an intense 8-second showdown against Durban Tigers, while Swart headed up the Stallions U16 coaching team (with able assistance from Paul Gonlag) that helped their side edge out the Highland Scorpions of the Boland 4-3 in a heart-stopping encounter.
The successes against seasoned franchises – and with it promotion to the Girls’ U18A section and Boys’ U16A section for the 2014 Noland PSI Nationals – certainly bodes well for the new Stallions franchise, as the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal is a hotbed of talent.
All the Finals Day results, including the B sections, and everything else you require regarding the 7th Nolands Pro Series Indoor (PSI) Nationals – from preliminary round results, to logs to fixtures to videos – can be found at www.psihockey.co.za and it’s well worth a look.
* For the record, the teams taking part in the 7th Nolands Pro Series Indoor (PSI) Nationals included new franchises the Pretoria Pitbulls, Bloem Bears (Bloemfontein), Midlands Stallions from KZN and the Southern Cape Sables.
Plus, of course, regulars the Boland Foxes, Highland Scorpions (Boland), Cape Town Seals, Peninsula Sharks, Cape Sunbirds, Durban Panthers, Durban Tigers, East London Jaguars, East Rand Quaggas, Namibia Hawks, Namibia Eagles, PE Vipers (Port Elizabeth), Johannesburg Gryphons, West Coast Barracudas and the West Coast Stingrays.
The 7th Nolands PSI Nationals U13 and U14 boys’ and girls’ competitions for the year 2013, which took place from Saturday, December 7 to Tuesday, December 10, had 77 teams and more than 750 participants who played in 336 games of indoor hockey three-and-a-half days, while the PSI Nationals U16 and U18 boys’ and girls’ competitions, which included 65 teams and more than 630 participants playing 290 indoor matches, saw the on-court action explode on Wednesday, December 11 – with the gold medal finals day on Saturday morning, December 14.
The organisation involved in an event of this magnitude – from transport to accommodation to meals to entertainment and more – has to be seen to be believed and all involved should take a bow.
Can’t wait for PSI Nationals 2014.
Photo: ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY
Ash Rutherford (left) of the Boland Foxes is in possession as Aimee Davis of the Cape Town Seals challenges during the Girls’ U16A final at the 7th Nolands Pro Series Indoor (PSI) Nationals in the Good Hope Centre, Cape Town on Saturday. The Seals beat the Foxes 4-1.