The Fifth African Canoe Polo Championships were hosted by Dabulamanzi Canoe Club in Johannesburg on October 6-8. This was the first time the event was hosted in Gauteng with the previous host cities being Windhoek (Namibia), Cape Town and Knysna.
A total of 86 canoe polo from 12 teams competed across four divisions. The South African teams comprised the bulk of the players with 68 players taking part, including 33 from Gauteng, 13 from KZN, 14 from the Eastern Cape and 8 from the Western Cape.
Eighteen players from Namibia participated in the event.
The tournament comprised of four divisions: Open (Division 1); Women & Juniors (Division 2); African Champs Men (Division 3); and African Champs U21 Men (Division 4).
South Africa fielded an extremely strong contingent of national teams in all four categories and additional development teams in the U21 men’s, women’s and men’s tournaments. Namibia entered teams for the men and U21 men.
With World Championship positions for China next year on the line, the competition was fierce. The South African U21 Men’s Team immediately made an impact with some strong wins and finished the first day of competition in first position in the Open pool.
The South African Women’s team was the only female team at the tournament which mean they automatically booked their ticket to China but competed in the Open Division to build experience and held their own well in the division.
The South African U21 Women’s team had a tough time in Division 2 but built valuable experience. They also had automatic qualification by virtue of being the only national u21 women’s team taking part.
The first men’s playoff between South Africa and Namiba on Saturday morning was a tense affair which eventually ended in a draw. This set the stage for a critical evening game between the same two teams. In this match the South Africans found an extra gear and scored a convincing win against Namiba to take a step closer to booking their tickets to China.
The second day of games were mostly focussed on playoffs. The South African men were victorious in the U21 Men’s playoff against Namibia and confirmed their place in China. The final game of the tournament ended up being the deciding game in the Men’s Continental Championships, with the South African men proving too strong and cementing their spot as the top ranked African team.
Now the focus turns towards selecting the teams that will travel to China in 2024. The national committee will have a tough time choosing the traveling teams from the large squad available!