CHAMPIONS CUP 2017 – FINAL DAY

Volleyball South Africa’s (VSA) prestigious national inter club championship for men and women staged at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal’s Westville Campus Sports Centre ended on a disappointing note for the host province. With “home-turf” advantage KZN fielded nine (9) men’s teams and two (2) women’s teams, their strongest candidates being Liberte of Tongaat the 2016 winners of the Champions Cup and seasoned campaigners, UKZN and DUT.

Liberte are the only KZN outfit to win the national silverware on two occasions, in 2000 and 2016 in the tournament’s seventeen year history.

The local fans were devastated when Liberte, the defending champions exited the tournament in the quarter final stage when they squared up against a fired up Vaal University of Technology (VUT). Liberte lost the encounter by 3 sets to 1. The tournament’s dark horses, Kamplits of Limpopo edged out UKZN 3-1 while DUT succumbed by the same margin to Uni Jozi (UJ), the eventual winners of the championship.

The promises of a double celebration became a possibility when the Limpopo Province’s men and women’s teams reached the final of the Champions Cup for the first time. The tournament’s best setter, Sina Rakumakwe must be credited for unleashing her attack force spearheaded by her skipper, Tebogo Sejewe (best attacker) for taking a commanding 2 sets to 0 lead in double quick time in a best of 5 sets final. When VUT, the 2016 silver medallists fought back they levelled matters at 2-2. Had it not been for the synergy that existed between Rakumakwe and Sejewe VUT would have reached the podium as gold medallists. “Pandemonium” erupted on the court when Kamplits closed proceedings with a 15-8 final set win to lift the coveted Champions Cup silverware for the first time.

The men’s final between UJ and Kamplits was a mouth watering encounter. Making their first appearance in a final of a national competition, Kamplits of Limpopo threw caution to the wind and took the fight to the more experienced UJ coached by Hugan Coopasamy who is part of the national coaches panel. UJ’s devastating trio, Jeremy Sunker (best setter), Keifer Govender (best attacker) and Martin Zulu (the tournament’s most valuable player) stopped the Limpopo lads in their tracks by taking the opening set by a 25-22.

Lapses in concentration resulted in UJ losing a tightly contested 2nd set by a heart stopping 24-26 score line. When UJ’s Sunker, Govender and Zulu got back into the swing of things they combined well to pulverise their opponents’ blockers to take the set by a 25-16 margin. However things became decidedly difficult for the Johannesburg team as Kamplits ‘Nataniel Rafapha and Jonas Mathobi (best blocker) matched Coopasamy’s charges in attack and strong defence at the net. Finally it was the experience of UJ, the three times winners of the Champions Cup that gave them the surge to wrap the crucial set with a breath taking 25-23 score line.

The top two teams in both genders will represent South Africa at the African Zone 6 regional club championship later this year.

Donovan Nair   VSA Media

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