Quintin van Jaarsveld
Four hometown heroes helped the South African men’s and ladies’ open sides to series wins over Ireland at Paddock Polocrosse Club over the weekend.
The unofficial three-match Test series ran concurrently with the club’s annual fun tournament, which saw teams from across the country compete and create memories over three days.
South Coast sisters Amber (20) and Paige Pretorius (18) – no strangers to international competition, having represented South Africa from Under-12 to Under-19 level – made their debuts for the national ladies’ team and helped the side secure a 2-1 series win.
South Africa drew first blood with a 24-15 win on Friday before the Irish bounced back with a 21-20 win on Saturday to keep their series hopes alive.
The South African ladies dominated Sunday’s decider, cantering to a 29-17 victory to seal the series.
The Best Overall Ladies Player of the Series award went to Natalie MacLarty, while the Best Irish Ladies Player prize went to Debbie Harris.
The players of the series in the respective positions were Jacquie Minnaar (No 1), Chelsea McDonald (No 2) and Dara Mangan (No 3), while the Golden Pony awards went to Amber Pretorius’ Bella in the South African pool and Caley Higgs’ Sailor Man in the Irish pool.
Meanwhile, locals Kenan Classen (18), who helped the South African Under-21s to a series win over Ireland in April, and Jens Bunge (17), who starred for the unofficial South African Under-19s against the UK last month, enjoyed dream debuts for the national men’s team.
The South Africans swept the series, winning 34-18 on Friday, 32-19 on Saturday and 39-16 on Sunday.
The Best Overall Men’s Player of the Series was Stefan Harris, with Eoin O’Donnell winning the Best Irish Men’s Player accolade.
The positional Player of the Series awards were won by debutants Chad von Benecke (No 1), Sean Gilson (No 2) and Classen (No 3).
Classen also received both of the Golden Pony awards for the horses he put into the men’s pools – Ponting in the South African pool and Nkanyezi in the Irish pool.
The local standout told eHowzit: “It was an amazing experience to play for the open men’s side on home turf and having local supporters. It was particularly special because my polocrosse career started on the same grounds.”
Classen added, “It was an enjoyable and challenging experience with a festive atmosphere. I found the opposition became more challenging as the series progressed.
“I felt honoured to be awarded the Best No 3 Men’s Player of the Series, however, for me the greatest reward was that my horses, Nkanyezi and Ponting, both won the men’s Golden Pony awards as voted by the Irish and SA teams.”
The fun tournament lived up to its name and saw five division champions being crowned.
Delta (Noel Bauer, Lynton Bauer and Joshua Halle) won the A Division, Nyati A (Joshua Le Roux, Dane Myers and Jemma Stuart) won the B Division, Branson (Stuart O’Dell, Sydney Viljoen and Daniel Mawson) won the C Division, Anvil Equine (Harry Semmons, Jasmin Bowden and Andrew Lynn) won the D Division and Paddock B (Liam Classen, Nicholas King and Sebastian King) won the E Division.
“It was a weekend of exciting polocrosse and we’re very proud of the level of play of our four local youngsters in the South African open sides,” commented Paddock Polocrosse Club chairman, Derrick Classen.
“We’d like to thank all the local spectators who helped to make the weekend even more exciting with their enthusiastic support and all our club members for their help in organising and hosting the event,” he added.
Photos by Shannon Gilson