SA IPT promotion battle crunch on cards
While Gauteng North can afford an early celebration after sealing their A-Section victory in this year’s African Inter-Provincial, five teams will be on knife’s edge in the promotion and relegation battle after action wrapped up at Rustenburg Golf Club on Thursday.
Gauteng North extended their winning march with a 7-5 result against Western Province and hardly needs to win their final match.
However, the youthful side will want to go out in style and might need a full arsenal to that, since their final round opponents are under the gun in the relegation stakes.
As usual, the talk at this stage of the country’s premier teams’ championship, sponsored by Tempest, is all about permutations and KwaZulu-Natal and Central Gauteng are in the pressure cooker.
Both teams have two points, but with just half a game point the difference, KwaZulu-Natal ranks fifth while Central bookends the log.
Central could avoid the wooden spoon if they can get past Southern Cape, who beat KwaZulu-Natal 6.5 – 5.5 for their second victory this week. But if Central repeats their fourth round 7-5 folly against Boland, KwaZulu-Natal could end up smelling the roses.
“It’s very, very tight at the bottom, that’s for sure,” said Central Gauteng captain, Louis Taylor. “Both teams are under immense pressure. It’s definitely going to be a battle to the finish and all you can ask is that every guy on the team gives his best effort on Friday.”
Matters are hardly calmer in the B-Section, although Ekurhuleni might sleep a little easier knowing that they will carry the two big points into the final round against Mpumalanga.
The side carried a 3-1 deficit against Free State & North Cape into the singles, but SA number one Christiaan Bezuidenhout crushed Burger Heckroodt 7&6 and top junior Kyle McClatchie drummed Marius Nel 7&5 to level matters.
Jason Froneman put the team ahead with a 4&3 win over Theuns Pieters, followed by Stephan Cronje, Donovan Pearce and Ernest Botha who took the side to 7-4.
NJ Arnoldi claimed a half point off Rian Coetzee to secure a 7.5 – 4.5 win for the side and take the team to the top of the log with eight points.
“We are two points clear of North West and Free State & Northern Cape, but we can’t afford to relax against Mpumalanga,” said manager Bob Hillcoat.
“North West played their hearts out to catch Free State and get to second place. They beat Mpumalanga 7-5 and Border 9-3 and they will be determined to have a run at promotion.
“They are playing Free State & Northern Cape and both points are on 36.5 game points; that’s just 7.5 behind us. If either team wins by a big margin and we can’t hold off Mpumalanga, we could still get pipped at the post. So it’s double trouble for us on Friday.”
In the final fourth round match, Mpumalanga beat Border 6.5 – 5.5 to move to fourth on the log with four points.