Defending champions ready for rematch in Rustenburg
For the first time in the history, two A-Section teams will step into title defence when the 53rdSouth African Inter-Provincial Championship, sponsored by Tempest, tees off at Rustenburg Golf Club next week.
The Western Province had a strong grip on the leaderboard heading into the final round at Port Elizabeth Golf Club last year, but their expected 17th triumph turned into a glorious moment for underdogs Boland, who forced the battle into stalemate when they tied on points and game points.
The champions have shared the unprecedented joint glory for 12 months, but the time has come for a new champion to step up and both teams are determined to go the distance at the SAGA’s flagship team event from 23-27 September.
Western Province manager Henk believes that SA IPT veterans Werner Theart, Cameron Johnston, Gerlou Roux and Aaron Russell will combine well with rookies Alex Jordan, Drew Denyer, Ian Snyman and Weyers van Rensburg.
“We are as ready as can be expected,” said Smith, who will lead the team for a sixth successive year.
“I think our line-up is a good combination of depth, experience and fresh talent. Werner is making his seventh appearance for Province and will skipper the side for a fifth year running, but he also represented Boland five times and Gauteng North once.
“Cameron has played 11, Gerlou four and Aaron three Inter-Provincials, so we have about 30 years of experience between them. They will provide the experience, the patience and strategic know-how, while the rookies will bring hunger and excitement to the matches.
“The team has prepared well and I believe we stand a strong chance of retaining the title.”
Smith said the team will be looking for a solid performance in their opening match against 2009 champions, KwaZulu-Natal.
“We will be looking for a strong start to get the momentum going and go from there,” he said.
“The men in black are always tough opponents. They are gritty competitors and they never give up. If we can get past them with a decent result in the first round it will set a very positive tone for the side for the rest of the week.”
Meanwhile Boland manager Servaas de Kock will also be pushing for a good first round result.
“The Southern Cape boys have a point to prove this year and that makes them very dangerous,” said De Kock, guiding Boland for a ninth successive year.
“They gained promotion in their debut in the SA IPT in 2009, but was demoted in Bloemfontein two years later. Last year they fought like demons to get back in the A-Section, so you can bet your bottom dollar they won’t leave without a fight this year.”
The Boland manager is quietly confident though, that his side can go the distance.
“Coming from behind the way we did last year, gave the team an enormous boost,” he said. “They know a match is never over until the last putt drops. They saw their extra effort pay off last year.
“They are taking the challenge very seriously this year. We have put a lot of time into our preparation and I believe the boys are ready for the battle ahead.”
Last year’s victorious captain Philip Spies will lead the challenge in his fourth appearance for Boland alongside fellow members of the winning team, Karl Osche, Armand Scholtz and Anton Oosthuizen.
Trevor Mahoney lines up for a fourth time, while Nico van Rensburg, Pierre de Villiers and Henri van der Walt will debut for Boland.
Although Gauteng North is fielding the strongest team on paper, the skipper merit is overrated.
“The team that holds merit on paper does not always come out on top,” Spies said.
“What counts is what happens hole-by-hole, day-to-day. Look at Central Gauteng and Western Province. Gauteng has won 25 times and Province 16 times, but they often came into the championship as the underdogs.
“You can never underestimate your rivals and you have to play until the last putt drops. We know that better than anyone, because that’s what carried us to the winner’s circle last year.”
The other contenders in the A-Section include seven-time champions KwaZulu-Natal and Central Gauteng, who won in Bloemfontein in 2011.
Meanwhile Smith believes the B-Section battle for promotion will be really tight this year.
“North West Province is the host union and obviously tipped as the favourites with their home course advantage, but anything can happen,” said Smith. “These teams really go all out into battle. This is where the real drama unfolds.”
The balance of the B-Section teams include Border, Eastern Province, Ekurhuleni, Free State & Northern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.