Defending champions KZN ready to challenge at 50th SA IPT
Defending champions Kwa-Zulu Natal are hunting an eighth title when the 50th edition of the South African Inter Provincial tees off at Pretoria Country Club from 20-24 September.
“We are as ready as can be expected,” said team captain Ryan de Beer. “I think we will surprise a lot of people who don’t rate us, just because the tournament is being played inland this year.
“The team is performing well and I think we stand a strong chance of retaining the title. We just need to have a solid start from the start, to get the momentum going.”
In the first round of Foursomes and Singles, the men in black will be tested by Southern Cape, making their debut in the A-Section this year.
“The Southern Cape guys won the B-Section in their IPT debut last year,” De Beer said. “They will be out to prove themselves and we will have to take them seriously.”
Although the KZN captain thinks the A-Section teams are evenly matched, he does consider Central Gauteng a threat this year.
“They are fielding one of their strongest teams ever since winning back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006,” explained De Beer. “I think they have an edge with Ryan (Dreyer), Tyrone (Ryan) and Daniel (Hammond), who have all won tournaments this year and all rank in the top 10.
“They know this course very well and I think after the wake-up call they got last year, they will be tough to beat if they bring their A-game.”
Central Gauteng captain Dreyer won the Gauteng North Strokeplay, Hammond took the KZN Open and Ryan won the Western Province Strokeplay and Match Play at Clovelly. Northern Amateur Match Play winner Thabo Maseko and Alan Versfeld, who narrowly lost in the SA Amateur final, round out the team alongside Patrick Spindler, Yubin Jung and Ruan de Smidt.
Dreyer does concede that the team holds merit on paper, but the 2009 SA Match Play champion warned that you can never get over-confident in match play.
“It is a good team and all our boys are playing well,” said Dreyer. “But last year we fielded a strong team, too, and almost got relegated. You can never underestimate your rivals. It’s what happens on the day, hole-by-hole, that counts.”
Although Dreyer considers the Free State / Northern Cape and Boland as strong contenders, he feels that the Western Province could be a huge contender this year.
“Western Province has won this event 15 times,” said Dreyer. “You can never underestimate them and this year, they have brought a formidable squad.”
The side includes reigning Prince’s Grant Amateur champion Aaron Russell, Justin Turner, Werner Theart and Gregg Upton – the fearsome foursome from the 2008 winning side, as well as LeRiche Ehlers, Robbie Oosthuizen, Ryan Strauss and Jean-Paul Strydom . WP manager Henk Smith said his team could do well if they get the pairings right.
“We do have a good mix of youth and experience in Robbie and Gregg Upton versus the younger guys,” Smith said. “But we will have to get our foursomes pairings right from the get-go, because then you’re halfway there.”
In the B-Section, several teams are punching above their weight. “It’s here that the real drama will unfold,” said Dreyer, who added that Ekurhuleni, Eastern Province and North West are tipped to do well but hosts Gauteng North are the hot favourites.
“They were relegated last year and they know that they just have to make the most of the home course advantage to win and gain promotion,” said Dreyer.
“This kind of opportunity doesn’t come around often. They have to take advantage of the local conditions and their knowledge of the layout should count in their favour.”
The hosts have elected to play 17-year-old Brandon Stone, who won the Boland and Southern Cape Opens this season, at number one while Ekurhuleni will play the country’s top amateur, Dean O’Riley at number one. North West will counter with third ranked JG Claassen and Eastern Province with the experienced Luke Jerling.
The rest of the B Section sides include Border, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.