Title rivals ready for action at SA IPT

The Western Province and Gauteng North teams kept a respectful distance between them during today’s South African Inter-Provincial practice session, but you could still cut the tension at Bloemfontein Golf Club with a knife.

“For 51 weeks of the year these players are great friends, but for the next five days it’s game on,” said Gauteng North’s new team manager, Johan Steyn.

“The SA IPT is the most prestigious team competition on the amateur circuit, so friendships are put on ice this week and it’s every team for themselves.”

Western Province manager Henk Smith agreed. “Johan is absolutely right,” he said. “You don’t come to the IPT to make friends. It’s all about provincial pride and you have to get your game face on early.”

Steyn, who considers the A-Section teams evenly matched, believes his team could pose a serious threat this year.

“No-one really rated us last year, but we produced the goods to score a runaway victory in the B-Section and earn promotion,” he said. “All six teams in the A-Section will fight hard, but we shouldn’t be underestimated. We are just as motivated and we have a point to prove.”

Steyn believes new caps Zander Lombard and Conway Kunneke are a great addition to the six players from last year’s victories team.

“Herman Minnie is back in the captain’s seat and we have Brandon Stone, Pedrie Oosthuizen, Coenie Bester, Hendre Celliers and Jacques van Tonder back in the side,” he said.

“Zander and Conway both performed very well at the U-23 IPT and the Challenge Cup Tournament and I’ve partnered them with players who have similar games and styles.

“These are eight brilliant individuals on the team who have all enjoyed a measure of success this season. But starting Monday, they will play for each other and get themselves into contention for the title. They are here to compete and get into title contention.”

Western Province captain Werner Theart is taking four new caps into battle, including Dylan Rauhenheimer, MG Keyser, Lean Boezaart and Delin Erasmus.

“I believe we have the side to deliver the goods,” he said. “Our rookies earned their places with great individual performances and our preparation was focussed around team effort. That is at an all-time high right now. We just need to start strong and build momentum.”

There’s a lot at stake this week for Western Province and Gauteng North, who will face each other in the opening match on Monday.

Province is looking for a successive title defence and hunting a record 17thSA IPT title while Gauteng North hopes to end the winning drought that dates back to 1984.

Southern Cape, celebrating their second year in the A-Section, will face 2010 champions KwaZulu-Natal in the second match followed by 2007 champions Boland and Central Gauteng.

Aiming to reverse last year’s B-Section relegation, Free State and Northern Cape will open their campaign against Limpopo and Ekurhuleni. North West meet Eastern Province and Border in their opening match while Mpumalanga will have a bye in the first round.

The 51stinter-provincial tournament, sponsored by Tempest, tees off from 19-23 September. The format for both sections will be morning foursomes and afternoon singles.

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