PORT ELIZABETH (19 September 2012) – There are still two rounds left and lots of golf to be played, but a resurgent Boland and gritty Western Province side threw the 52nd South African Inter-Provincial Championship wide open on Wednesday.
Central Gauteng had plotted a course for their title defence with positive results against Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal over the first two days, while Gauteng North stayed close behind. But now the tournament has developed a distinct three-way split and is heading for an almighty showdown.
After trailing 2½ – 1½ in the foursomes, Boland retaliated to win six of a possible eight points in the singles and pounded the defending champions with a 7½ – 4½ win.
After holding Gauteng North to a 2-all draw in the foursomes, Western Province strengthened their title bid when they downed the 2011 runners-up 7-5.
And just to add more fuel to the fire, KwaZulu-Natal held off a spirited challenge from Limpopo to squeeze back into the title hunt with a narrow 6½ – 5½ result.
“The tournament is wide open, but this is exactly what the format of this championship dishes up,” said Boland manager, Servaas de Kock. “If you don’t play at top form at this level in every round, the turnaround can be quick and painful.
“On Tuesday we were outperformed, today was our turn. Tomorrow things could change again. That’s the nature of the beast. You have to keep your eye on the ball.”
Jacquin Hess piled on the pressure with a 2&1 win over fellow SAGDB graduate Sipho Bujela in the singles to get the ball rolling. The team won four games, halved two and sacrificed just one when Karl Osche went down 2&1 to Otto van Greunen after tough battle.
“The wind was in our favour this afternoon, but still, the games were very tight; it was by no means a walkover,” said De Kock.
“It was good to see every guy on the team tough it out in the conditions. When we didn’t win outright, at least tried to force a half. We lost just one game, but even that game went to the wire and Karl lost 2&1.”
Central’s loss left them tied with Western Province and Boland on four points apiece.
The defending champions share the games count on 21 with Province, which gives them a little breathing space over Boland at 19.5.
Central Gauteng team manager Jock Wellington was philosophical about the loss.
“I’ve said from the start of the championship that anything can happen; nothing is cast in stone and that’s why you have to take this tournament shot for shot, game for game,” he said. “All credit to Boland, they played like champions today and we struggled.
“But I have a lot of confidence in my team and I know they won’t take this loss lying down. We’ll regroup and come back fighting on Thursday.”
Province captain Werner Theart also cautioned against complacency.
“It’s something you really have to watch when things are going well,” he said. “It can change in a heartbeat. You have to approach every game afresh and take nothing for granted.”
Meanwhile Southern Cape claimed their fifth scalp and Ekurhuleni sounded a warning with two solid performances against Free State & Northern Cape and Border in the B-Section.
Southern Cape, who lost a hard-fought for promotion last year, has been diligently working their way to the top of the B-Section log and strengthened their bid when they drilled Mpumalanga 8½ – 3½.
But Ekurhuleni could pose a real threat, especially after braving the gusting south-westerly to hold down Free State & Northern Cape 7-5 and pounding Border 8½ – 3½.
The Garden Route side remains unbeaten after five games and tops the log at 10 points, but will have to wait out a bye on Thursday to see if Ekurhuleni, and Mpumalanga, can close the gap.
“In this format, you’re doomed if count your chickens,” said Southern Cape manager John Mitchell. “Ekurhuleni showed great form in the wind. They are playing two matches on Thursday and if both go their way, we will be tied at 10 points each going into the final round.
“Mpumalanga and Eastern Province are not out of it either, so we’ll just have to sit tight. It could still come down to games count and luckily our games count is sitting at 42.5, so even if we go down in our last game, we could still see who comes second on Friday.”
Western Province beat Gauteng North 7 – 5
KwaZulu-Natal beat Limpopo 6½ – 5½
Boland beat Central Gauteng 7½ – 4½
Southern Cape beat Mpumalanga 8½ – 3½
Ekurhuleni beat Free State & Northern Cape 7 – 5
Ekurhuleni beat Border 8½ – 3½
Free State & Northern Cape beat Border 7 – 5
T1 Central Gauteng (3, 2, 0, 1, 4.0, 21.0)
T1 Western Province (3, 2, 0, 1, 4.0, 21.0)
3 Boland (3, 2, 0, 1, 4.0, 19.5)
4 Gauteng North (3, 1, 1, 1, 3.0, 18.0)
5 Kwa-Zulu Natal (3, 1, 1, 1, 3.0, 16.0)
6 Limpopo (3, 0, 0, 3, 0.0, 12.5)
1 Southern Cape (5, 5, 0, 0, 10.0, 42.5)
2 Ekurhuleni (5, 3, 0, 2, 6.0, 32.0)
3 Mpumalanga (3, 2, 0, 1, 4.0, 19.0)
4 Eastern Province (3, 2, 0, 1, 4.0, 18.5)
5 North West Province (4, 1, 0, 3, 2.0, 24.0)
6 Free State & Northern Cape (4, 1, 0, 3, 2.0, 20.0)
7 Border (4, 0, 0, 4, 0.0, 12.0)