- South African Country Districts out to defend men’s and women’s titles in Pretoria.
Pretoria, Tshwane, South Africa: More than 200 players around South Africa are gearing up for the biggest week of their squash lives when the annual Growthpoint Interprovincial (IPT) tournament takes place in Pretoria from July 10 to 14.
The country’s premier team competition, which includes teams from Zambia and Namibia, is back in full swing and will see 42 teams competing in various sections, with 226 players taking part.
Squash South Africa president Kyle Potgieter said it was a significant week for squash players across the board. “This tournament sees the cream of the squash crop assemble each year to test their fitness and stamina with old rivals and new acquaintances,” he said. “We expect that the competition will be fierce and feisty, and Squash South Africa encourages each player to play their matches in the spirit of the Growthpoint IPT where the game is the eventual winner. “A tournament of this stature can only be executed along with the generosity of our sponsors Growthpoint Properties, and we are grateful and appreciative for all their assistance in making this event happen.”
As the South African Country Districts (SACD) teams prepare to defend their titles in the perennially competitive A section, their rivals will be gunning to cause an upset after several years of domination.
The SACD women’s team, led by 2021 Growthpoint national champion Lizelle Muller, will be targeting a fifth straight Kaplan Cup title, while JP Brits’ men’s outfit will be chasing their third Jarvis Cup trophy in a row.
On paper, spearheaded by two-time Growthpoint national champion Dewald van Niekerk, it’s difficult to see anyone stopping the SACD men from making it a hat-trick.
But the experienced Brits knows all about the challenges this iconic tournament delivers and said it would “definitely not be easy”. “We have learned over the years that the Growthpoint Interprovincial is an event in which you cannot take anything for granted,” the skipper said. “You simply must be focused for every game and just take it one match at a time. The players must be on point and playing to the best of their potential.”
SACD suffered a slight setback this week when Tristen Worth had to withdraw through illness, with his place being taken by Jonty Matthys. Nevertheless, it is still going to take a massive effort to knock the champions off their perch.
With Christo Potgieter at the helm, Joburg Squash loom as their most serious rivals and their clash on Wednesday could well decide the pool winners.
It is going to be real scrap to see who qualifies for the final, with Western Province, who contested the final in East London last year, possibly the strongest contender from the other pool.
However, host province Northerns will also be up for the fight in familiar conditions and keen to make a statement on home turf.
Their showdown on Tuesday should be one of the highlights of the early part of the interprovincial.
Muller and Alexa Pienaar head a powerful-looking SACD women’s team which shows good depth all the way through as they hunt another title.
The five women’s teams will compete in a round-robin format, with the final showdown between SACD and Eastern Province set for Friday morning.
EP has the impressive Hayley Ward, who has grown with greater exposure at a higher level over the last 12 months, at No 1 and the team is bolstered by the return of Kacey-Leigh Dodd and Dani Shone.
Nonetheless, SACD will start as the favourites, although as Brits has pointed out, nothing is set in stone at the Growthpoint Interprovincial.
It has thrown up many surprises since the inaugural tournament in 1960 and the titles in South Africa’s most prestigious team event will not be won without a fight to the end.
The A section teams are:
Blue pool: SACD A, Joburg Squash, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Province
Red pool: Northerns, Zambia, Western Province, SACD B
SACD, Eastern Province, Western Province, Joburg Squash, Northerns