The South African Canoe Polo Championships will take place at the University of KwaZulu-Natal swimming pool in Pietermaritzburg this coming weekend after it was moved from its original venue at Shongweni Dam outside Hillcrest but the champs should still be a hard-fought battle between the provinces once again.
The last-minute change came when the organisers decided the water level of the dam was too low for them to rig up the pitch. The dam is unseasonably low at the moment and although they have shifted the event, Shongweni Dam will see some canoe polo action later in the year.
“We will, however, still be hosting the Durban International tournament at Shongweni on the 24th and 25th May, in which Namibia have confirmed they will be sending men’s, ladies and Under-21 teams to,” the organisers of the event said.
Ladies, men, Under-21 and development teams from KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape and Gauteng will be pitted against each other throughout the two days, each hoping to win the final on Sunday afternoon.
The sport of Canoe Polo has shown a promising growth spurt in the last few years with the long-awaited return of KwaZulu-Natal residents Clive Whitton and Laurel Oettle from eight years in the United Kingdom.
Their passion, talent and wealth of international and European club experience stands the future of South African Canoe Polo in good stead, and they both were awarded player of the year after leading their national teams to victory at the Africa Championships in Namibia in September 2013, where the South African Under-21 men’s team also took gold.
These victories secured an invitation to the World Canoe Polo Championships in France in September, and with players from each province spread across the national squads and the final selection event for the senior men’s and ladies team to be held next month, all the players will be on good form and eager to demonstrate their skills this weekend.
The KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng teams have experienced a particularly fierce rivalry in the last few years, with the KwaZulu-Natal ladies taking victory in extra time at last year’s picturesque Cape Town Waterfront venue.
The Gauteng men’s team managed to scrape victory in the last two years running, and KwaZulu-Natal are determined to set the record straight after their decade-long previous domination of the sport.
To make the event even more exciting, the much-improved Gauteng Under-21 team have entered the competition in the senior men’s category in preparation for the upcoming World Championships, and the Cape Town-based teams have grown in numbers over the past two years and also hope to make an impact on this year’s results.
There will also be a strong development team from the Western Cape attending the event for the first time, as well as three development players within the Gauteng squad, which is a vital step forward in increasing diversity within the sport.