JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, March 5. ACTION-packed Samsung National Water Polo League action is set to take Durban by storm as all roads leading to the Clifton Aquatics Centre on Saturday (09h00 start) and Sunday (08h00 start), when home side KwaZulu Natal look to get back on to the winning trail against title favourites Central Gauteng OJ Eagles, Western Province and Central Gauteng Old Edwardians.
KwaZulu Natal coach Brad Rowe will be the first to admit that that men from the east coast were desperately unlucky in losing to Western Province 12-11 in Cape Town, but with Argentinean goalkeeper Nicholas Biachi in fine form and experienced national caps in Bevan Mansen and junior international Richard Downes in the line up, the hosts are expected to lift their game to a new level.
Add in central defender Cebe Mdletshe and ex-SA international Michael Harrison, and KwaZulu Natal should be in with a shout in the second leg of three of the round robin fixtures.
The daunting Central Gauteng OJ Eagles machine has dominated SA water polo for many a year, and judging by the unbeaten performance in Cape Town a fortnight ago, with players of the calibre of the attack-minded le Roux brothers, Ettiene and Pierre, and national team goalkeeper Dwayne Flatscher in their line up, they will prove difficult to beat.
"The Central Gauteng OJ Eagles squad has been working really hard towards lifting the inaugural Samsung National Water Polo League title, but we will need to tighten up in certain areas, if we are to retain our unbeaten status this weekend," said Central Gauteng OJ Eagles mentor Vladimir Trninic.
Western Province team coach, Zsolt Desi, will look for a more focused approach from his defenders, particularly when a man down on defensive set pieces, as this was where Central Gauteng OJ Eagles took full advantage during the North vs South showdown in Cape Town, won 8-5 by the Gauteng side.
For Western Province, ex-Central Gauteng OJ Eagles defender Andre Lotz produced a classy performance against his former team-mates, while Matt Kemp in goal, but Trninic's side took their chances in a physical encounter. The KWaZulu Natal leg fixture involving these two sides is expected to provide one of the highlights of the two days of water polo action.
Central Gauteng Old Edwardians find themselves at the wrong end of the league table, but with players of the caliber of Alistair Stewart, Gareth Samuel and Gavin Kyte in their ranks, they could cause a few surprises during the fixtures in Durban.
Special thanks to Swimming South Africa for contributing this report.