The 2018 edition of the South African Canoe Polo Championships proved to be a record breaking championship for canoe polo in South Africa, hosted for the first time in Knysna, by the Knysna Yacht Club, over the Easter weekend from the 31 March to 1 April.
The entire Knysna community contributed to the event and the Waterfront was abuzz with activity from the Thursday before the event! On Friday the Inaugural Dragon Boat Tug of War was held and was an instant crowd hit.
The brutal event which would last a matter of seconds would pit two teams of 4 against each other in a Tug-of-War format to achieve dominance. After a gruelling series of pool and knock out events, “Bob The Builder” took the title in an epic final against “Caltex”.
As the sun rose over Knysna on Saturday morning, the organising committee were already in the final stages of setting up the pitches and scoring systems before the games. The event also marked the first time that the Canoe Polo Live polo scoring system developed by Wedge Development was used to run the national championships. The athletes, spectators and organisers were able to track all the games and results live over the internet during the weekend, a first for SA Canoe Polo.
The event had four divisions with a record 16 teams competing with over 90 players taking part across the different divisions. The sheer number of teams meant that the pool games went on till late on Saturday night and on into Sunday morning.
After the pool games, the teams all played in a number of knock out events to determine who would be competing for the title of South African Champion. In the U21 Men’s and Ladies division, the Western Cape U21 Men had reigned supreme, as did the Gauteng U21 ladies in the U21 ladies division.
The Knysna U16 boys were also on top form going into the knock-outs having won all their pool games.
The open division, which had seven teams (another record) was less clear cut with Western Cape A in the lead but the scrap for second was fearsome with just goal difference separating Gauteng A and Knysna A (playing as Western Cape B).
These two teams faced off in the semi-final in one of the tightest games of the tournament, with Gauteng eventually emerging victorious to take the next final spot with Western Cape A.
Once all the knock-out and semi-final games were complete, the finals began. The standard of canoe polo has rapidly risen over the last few years with a consistent growth and a large number of junior players hinting at a very positive future for the sport.
The u16 division showed that with an outstanding level of competition over the entire weekend. The Knysna u16 boys finished the tournament victorious over the Gauteng Dragons and Knysna U16 Girls in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Gauteng Barracudas finished in 4th.
The Gauteng U21 ladies have a large number of girls in the national ladies squad that is touring to Belgium later this year and that showed with a comprehensive win of both the Ladies division as well as the U21 Ladies division. The KZN ladies finished in second ahead of the Western Cape Ladies while in the U21 Ladies division, the Knysna U16 girls showed they are a force to be reckoned with for the future, finishing second ahead of the KZN U21 Ladies in third.
The Western Cape U21 Men was the top team of the U21 division the whole weekend, despite only playing with 4 team members for the entire tournament! In second was the KZN U21 mixed team and in third the Gauteng ladies.
In the open division, Western Cape A achieved their province’s first ever national championships win taking a 3-2 win over Gauteng A in the final. Knysna A took the last place on the podium, followed by KZN, Cape Town, Knysna Barbarians and the Zimmerframes.
Three more canoe polo events will be held this year, with the Durban International up next from the 12th-13th May. The Knysna Oyster Festival Polo Tournament will be held from the 14th -15th July after which the national men’s and ladies development sides will travel to Belgium to take part in 2 tournaments.
The final Canoe Polo tournament for the year will be the Vikings Cup, held in Johannesburg from the 13th-14th October.
Should you wish to get involved in Canoe Polo, these are the respective people to contact:
CSA Polo Chairman and Gauteng representative: Chris De Breecdebree@hotmail.com
KZN Polo Chairwoman: Laurel Oettle firstname.lastname@example.org
Knysna Polo Club Chairman: Nelson das Fontes email@example.com
Cape Town Polo Club Chairman: Iain Clarke firstname.lastname@example.org