Lali Stander –
DURBAN (16 September 2013) – The pressure is building at Durban Country Club after the Western Province moved within striking distance of A-Section log leaders KwaZulu-Natal and Free State & Northern Cape narrowed the gap on B-Section leaders Eastern Province at the halfway stage of South African Mid-Amateur Inter-Provincial at Durban Country Club on Wednesday.
Although KwaZulu-Natal whipped North West 8-4 to seal their third successive win in the national team championship, the two-time champions will carry a very slim lead into their fourth round clash with Province.
The Cape side joined the hosts on eight points in the standings after handing Ekurhuleni a comprehensive drubbing. Their 9-3 success took the sides overall game points to 24 and the 2007 champions lag just half a game point behind the coastal side.
“Ekurhuleni has beaten us the last five years, so it was great to finally come out on the winning side,” said team manager Eric Lefson. “We are in with a good chance now, but it will be all hands on deck in Thursday’s battle. The guys really rallied in the singles and we will need the same commitment against KZN.”
South Africa’s top senior Francois le Roux, Gareth Johnston, Dirk van der Merwe, Giles Buchanan, Cameron Johnston, reigning SA Mid-Amateur champion Greg Sheard and SA number three, Gerlou Roux, collected the points that put Western Province in the race.
“Even Elvin Nel narrowly lost to Jan Delport 1-down,” Lefson said. “We need a strong showing in the foursomes and we need to get at least two points to have a fighting chance. The KZN side has a lot of local players who knows this track well, but if we can lead or square the foursomes, it’s anyone’s match.
“We’ve heard that there is rain forecast for Thursday, and that could be a great equaliser. The Stormers made the best of the wet conditions on the weekend, so we’ll take that as a good omen.”
In the remaining match, Central Gauteng retaliated after their second round loss to KwaZulu-Natal to beat Boland 8-4 and move to third in the standings on four points. Central will be hunting another victory in their fourth round match against Ekurhuleni to get their title defence back on track.
Meanwhile the fight for promotion could be heading for an epic battle between Free State & Northern Cape and the Eastern Province, who got the wooden spoon last year.
Eastern Province beat Gauteng North 7.5 – 4.5 to strengthen their bid, but Free State & Northern Cape joined the promotion race after defeating Mpumalanga 8-4 and squaring off 6-all with Border.
The two teams are tied on eight points but Eastern Province has a 3.5 games points edge. This slight advantage could prove crucial when the sides face each other on Friday.
However, both teams will have a fourth round bye and Eastern Province manager Joseph Matiwana warned that this could open the door for Southern Cape to swoop in and join the battle.
“If they beat Border, we will all be tied on eight points and that will upset the applecart.,” Matiwana said. “We just have to hope that Border performs the same way they did today. They didn’t just draw against us, but they gave Mpumalanga a real hiding, winning 8.5 – 3.5. If they can give Southern Cape a hard time, we have a chance.”
Western Province 9 vs Ekurhuleni 3
North West 4 vs KwaZulu-Natal 8
Central Gauteng 8 vs Boland 4
1 KwaZulu-Natal (3, 3, 0, 0, 6, 24.5)
2 Western Province (3, 3, 0, 0, 6, 24.0)
3 Central Gauteng (3, 2, 0, 1, 4, 19.5)
4 Ekurhuleni (3, 1, 0, 2, 2, 15)
5 Boland (3, 0, 0, 3, 0, 13)
6 North West (3, 0, 0, 3, 0, 12)
Border 6 vs Free State & N.Cape 6
Border 8.5 vs Mpumalanga 3.5
Free State & Northern.Cape 8 vs Mpumalanga 4
Eastern Province 7.5 vs Gauteng North 4.5
1 Eastern Province (5, 4, 0, 1, 8, 39)
2 Free State & Northern Cape (5, 3, 2, 0, 8, 36.5)
3 Southern Cape (4, 2, 2, 0, 6, 26)
4 Border (4, 2, 1, 1, 5, 25.5)
5 Gauteng North (3, 0, 1, 2, 1, 16)
6 Mpumalanga (4, 0, 0, 4, 0, 17.5)
7 Limpopo (3, 0, 0, 3, 0, 7.5)