A record field of canoe polo enthusiasts will converge on Shongweni Dam outside Hillcrest this weekend for the national canoe polo championships that will end with the announcement of the nationals team squads for the international season later in the year.
129 players have registered for the two day tournament, competing across five different divisions, forcing the organisers to expand the competition facilities at Shongweni Dam to accommodate the 61 matches that will be played over the weekend.
A second canoe polo pitch has been built at Shongweni Dam, which is enjoying a revival in 2019 as a canoeing venue, having already hosted the KwaZulu-Natal sprint championships.
Canoe polo is played with a water-polo ball and involves teams of five players a side playing two ten minute halves aiming to score in goals suspended at either end.
The unique canoeing discipline has historically been dominated by teams from KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, but a resurgence of interest of the Western Cape sees the WP teams coming into the tournament as the senior men’s and Under 21 defending champions.
Their matches against the KZN and Gauteng sides will be the vital clashes that determine the outcome of the open division championships.
The Gauteng women’s team has been the pace-setter in the national women’s title decider for some time and will be favourites to retain their title. However the dark horse side ready to cause an upset in the women’s division is the fired up Knysna Under 21 side.
In a showing sign of resurgence of interest in the discipline, and Under 16 division is also being contested.
Competition in the Under 21 division will be particularly tight as the national championships will serve as the final select event for the Under 19 tour to the Junior World Champs Ireland in August.
At the end of the tournament the national selectors will confirm the broader national men’s and women’s squads from which the final teams to the senior and Under 21 world championships will be selected later in the year.