Central Gauteng are primed to chase down a record 28th victory when the South African Inter-Provincial Championship tees off at the Fish River Sun Hotel and Country Club from 19-23 September.
Two years ago, Central Gauteng marched to an unbeaten victory at Westlake Golf Club and a year later, defended their title with another undefeated run at Glendower Golf Club.
However, only two players from victorious 2015 team – reigning SA Mid-Amateur Stroke Play champion Ryan Dreyer and 2016 KZN Stroke Play champion Darin de Smidt – returned for duty in the 56th edition of the premier team championship, sponsored by Tempest.
It might be a daunting prospect to field six new players for some, but Jaco du Plessis is confident that his band of challengers are up to the task.
“We lost Jason Viljoen, Andi Dill, Matthew Spacey and Basil Wright to the pro ranks, while David Meyers took up a scholarship at Oklahoma City University,” said Du Plessis. We also lost Dylan (Naidoo) and Marco (Steyn), who will be representing South Africa in the World Amateur Team Championship in Mexico next week.
“It was obviously a blow to lose so many players at once, but we have a lot of depth and experience at Central Gauteng and we’ve brought eight guys who will leave everything out there to win.”
The new caps are mid-amateurs Shaun Stapleton and David Muller, as well as David McIntyre, Jason Rossiter, Kyle Barker and Tyrone Gibb.
“Everyone except Shaun has represented Central Gauteng at some level, be it at Junior, Under 23 or Mid-Amateur Inter-Provincials or the Challenge Cup and Shaun’s match play record in league, mid-amateur league and scratch league is impeccable.
“Everyone on the team has been performing well this season and we spent time selecting the Foursomes pairings and the Singles order. I have every confidence in their skills and experience to compete against the best in the country at the highest level and I believe we stand a strong chance of retaining the title.”
Central Gauteng will be hoping for a solid start to swing the momentum their way in their opening round against Gauteng North, who won the B-Section last year.
“Weather-wise we are supposed to have some great conditions next week, but the wind here at Fish River is unpredictable,” Du Plessis said. “It was make your job a lot harder if you get a coastal team on a windy day or an inland team on a calm, sunny day.
“There isn’t much point in focusing in on the weather. Every guy must just take the conditions as they come and do his best to walk off with the win. This course is great for match play, because it has a lot of risk-and-reward holes. That said, there is also a lot of trouble out there, especially if the wind is up, so we will just take it one day at a time, one game at a time.”
In the other A-Section openers, Western Province and Ekurhuleni will face off while Southern Cape goes up against Boland.
Local favourites Border will enjoy a first round bye in the B-Section, while Eastern Province play Mpumalanga and North West and Free State go head-to-head with Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.