March 5, 2024

Tough action as qualifiers secure spots for Cape Town squash showdown

Western Cape, V&A Waterfront, South Africa: Following a series of fascinating contests around the country, the die has been cast for the annual showdown of South Africa’s leading squash players take place in Cape Town this week.

Northerns player Ruan Olivier plays a volley during his match against SA Country Districts opponent JP Brits Pic: Reg Caldecott

This weekend was taken up by a round of regional qualifying hubs played at various centres to decide the top eight women and top eight men who will vie for the honour of being crowned South Africa’s squash champions.

The Growthpoint Nationals take place on the all-glass court at the iconic V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, with matches being played from Thursday to Saturday (August 10 to 12).

While there were naturally some predictable outcomes this weekend as several leading players secured their spots in the Nationals, there were also several admirable efforts to upset the status quo.

One of those came in the Cape Town tournament when Lawrence Kuhn, who started the tournament as the third seed, booked his place in the Nationals by defeating top seed Gary Wheadon 3-0 in the final.

The Free Stater, who is studying at UCT, won the University SA men’s title at the annual Ussa week last month and he will be competing in the Growthpoint Nationals in its current format for the first time.

Another interesting angle from the Cape Town tournament came with the return of former women’s champion Milnay Louw, who won the title from 2017 to 2019 and was runner-up in 2021.

She did not play last year but is back in contention after holding off a spirited challenge from Western Province’s Karen Schultz in this weekend’s regionals.

Their section was contested on a round-robin format, and it came down to Sunday’s clash to decide the winner. In a proper battle, Schultz drew level by winning the second game 12-10, but Louw finally prevailed (11-7 10-12 11-8 11-9) to take the top spot.

In another massive battle for supremacy, SA Country Districts player Keschia Scorgie found the extra gear when needed to hold off a serious challenge from Jennifer Preece (Joburg Squash) in the tournament decider.

Also decided on a round-robin, Scorgie had to watch as her opponent levelled the match after she led 2-1, but she managed to regroup in the fifth and deciding game to win it 11-7, edging Preece 4-11 13-11 11-5 7-1111-7.

Two-time defending men’s champion Dewald van Niekerk eased through in Potchefstroom and will be joined by elder brother Rudi, who survived some decent challenges in Gqeberha to earn another spot in the finals.

Rudi did not play last year but was part of the SA Country Districts team which won the Jarvis Cup at the Growthpoint Interprovincial last month and will bring plenty of experience and skill to Cape Town this week.

He did, though, must work hard to stem the challenge of Caleb Boy (3-1) and Dean Venter (3-2) this weekend to secure his spot.

The Van Niekerks’ sister, Lizelle Muller, who was the 2021 champion, is not playing as her lengthy and successful career enters the twilight zone.

The list of regional qualifiers is (most recent provincial affiliation in brackets):

Women: Helena Coetzee (Northerns), Savannah Ingledew (KZN Midlands), Milnay Louw (Northerns), Alexa Pienaar (SA Country Districts), Teagan Roux (Joburg Squash), Keschia Scorgie (SA Country Districts), Shelomi Truter (SA Country Districts), Hayley Ward (Eastern Province)

Men: Justin Gouweloos (KwaZulu-Natal), Damian Groenewald (Northerns), Lawrence Kuhn (Free State), Jonty Matthys (SA Country Districts), Ruan Olivier (Northerns), Christo Potgieter (Joburg Squash), Dewald van Niekerk (SA Country Districts), Rudi van Niekerk (SA Country Districts)

The weekend’s regional hub results were:

Cape Town, Western Province

Women (round-robin): 1 Milnay Louw, 2 Karen Schultz

Men: Lawrence Kuhn bt Gary Wheadon 3-0 (11-4 11-5 11-8)

Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (men only): Justin Gouweloos bt Daryn Pieters 3-0 (11-3 11-8 11-7)

Gqeberha, Eastern Province (men only, round-robin): 1 Rudi van Niekerk, 2 Caleb Boy

Joburg Squash women (round-robin): 1 Teagan Roux, 2 Linda Shannon

Joburg Squash men: Christo Potgieter bt Sipho Ncube 11-2 11-3 7-11 11-2

Kwaberg women (round-robin): 1 Savannah Ingledew, 2 Bongi Seroto

Potchefstroom, Northwest

Women 1st group (round-robin): 1 Alexa Pienaar, 2 Reece Thompson

Women 2nd group (round-robin): 1 Shelomi Truter, 2 Elske Garbers

Men: Dewald van Niekerk bt Alwyn Venter 3-0 (11-5 11-4 11-5)

Pretoria, Northerns

Women: Helena Coetzee bt Kim McDonald 3-1 (4-11 11-6 11-7 11-9)

Men: Damian Groenewald bt Mark Schickerling 3-1 (8-11 11-1 11-3 11-8)

Somerset West, Boland

Women (round-robin): 1 Hayley Ward, 2 Dene van Zyl

Men: Jonty Matthys bt Ian Oosthuizen 3-1 (7-11 11-7 11-7 11-6)

Welkom, Northern Free State

Women (round-robin): 1 Keschia Scorgie, 2 Jennifer Preece

Men: Ruan Olivier bt Reuel Videler 3-0 (11-1 11-4 11-7)

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