South Coast polocrosse stars captain, shine for SA U19s

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Kenan Classen and Paige Pretorius captained the South African Under-19 polocrosse teams with distinction during their unofficial three-Test series against the Barbarians in Mooi River at the weekend.

Classen was joined in the men’s side by another Oribi ace in Jens Bunge. The teams were coached by Graham MacLarty and Leigh Higgs, who represented South Africa in this year’s World Cup in Australia.

Classen and Bunge, both of whom have been in the national set-up from as early as Under-12, featured prominently and helped propel South Africa to a series clean sweep over the Barbarians, made up of leading players from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Zambia.

The hosts won the opening contest 25-17 on Friday, sealed the series with a 25-22 win on Saturday and finished things off with a 23-21 victory on Sunday.

The South African Under-19 men’s team. (Shannon Gilson)

“I am very pleased with the results and was particularly impressed by the skill and great sportsmanship of both teams,” Classen told eHowzit.

Classen led from the front and was named Best Number Three of the Series. He won the same award at the recent South African Championships, where his team finished second in the A Division.

“I was honoured to captain such a talented young side. My team kept positive attitudes both on and off the field and it was a pleasure to be their captain.

“It’s always great fun to play with your mates and we enjoyed many laughs together and made good memories. We also had the opportunity to build friendships with our opponents.”

Kenan Classen receives the Best Number Three of the Series award from PASA Junior Polocrosse President Karen Cocker. (Shannon Gilson)

Bunge echoed Classen’s sentiments, saying, “This series was definitely been one of the most enjoyable I’ve experienced so far, easily one that I’d repeat. The team gelled exceptionally well, which meant that our team spirits were high no matter what we were doing.”

He added it was particularly special to play under MacLarty.

“Graham has been one of my favourite coaches so far. He’s chilled and serious at just the right time and I look forward to having him as coach again.”

Jens Bunge (middle) made a big impact. (Shannon Gilson)

Unfortunately for Pretorius and company, the results didn’t go South Africa’s way in the ladies series.

The tourists had a slight edge, which saw them edge the hosts 24-22, 21-19 and 24-16.

“It’s a pity about the results, but it was a great experience,” said Pretorius, who just like her fellow South Coast stars, has been a mainstay in South African sides from an early age.

“I really enjoyed the captaincy role; I had very talented girls in my team who were all positive-minded, which made the job a whole lot easier.”

Paige Pretorius (left) leads by example. (Shannon Gilson)

She added: “The series was very enjoyable and we had lots of spectators cheering us on from the sidelines, which always makes the game a whole lot more exciting.

“The team spirit was great, from the parents and supporters to our coach and grooms. I didn’t know any of the Barbarian girls before they came over but from just spending the little time we did together, we really got to know each other well and were great friends off the field and great competition on the field.

“All in all, it was an unforgettable experience and a wonderful tour to be a part of.”

The South African Under-19 ladies team. (Shannon Gilson)

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