MPUMALANGA BUFFALO V DIAMOND KUDUS
With the last round of fixtures played over this weekend ( 16-18 March), Mpumalanga Buffalo and Diamond Kudus who are languishing in the bottom half of the NVL log standings simply had no prospects of making it into the semi-final stage of the inaugural 2018 National Volleyball League (NVL).
For both contenders the results were purely academic. Playing to restore some provincial pride the teams did their level best to keep the score board ticking. However the Buffaloes paid heavily for taking for granted bottom of the log team, the Diamond Kudus as the latter went on to post a 25-22 first set win, their first in the competition.
Continuing with their winning ways one would have expect the Kudus to take the fight to the Mpumalanga Buffalo and pressurise them to wilt under pressure.
Not to be out done the Mpumalanga outfit wrapped up the 2nd and 3rd sets with a comfortable 25-13; 25-10 score line that took the wind out the sails of the Northern Cape team.
Despite a concerted effort to turn the tables on the Buffalo, the Kudus were edged out by a 25-19 margin in the 4th set. The Mpumalanga Buffalo won the encounter by 3 sets to 1.
NORTH WEST DYNAMITES V FREE STATE GIANTS
Bottom half of the 2018 NVL table clash between North West Dynamites and Free State Giants ended in 5 sets in favour of the latter who made their presence felt in the 1st and 2nd sets with a 25-22; 25-20 win and in the process pushing the Dynamites further down the log standings.
With the stage set for a straight sets victory Free State attack force suffered a set back when key attacker , Lemohang Possa picked up an unfortunate ankle injury which ordinarily would have side lined a player. Filled with passion and determination to stay on court and lead his team to victory Head Coach Kiddo Mokoena allowed her captain and chief attacker, Lemohang Possa to continue in the match limping all the way.
Capitalising on the Free States’ setback the North West Dynamites surged ahead when setter Tsepho Suze created many one on one situations for his attacker Karabo Monyamane to put quick points on the board. Joining Monyamane in attack were Katlego Kolobi and Reggy Phumo who went on to post a convincing 25-13 win to reduce their deficit to 2-1.
The Free State fought back with play maker Thabo Mokoena supplying his attackers with adequate opportunities to stay ahead in the set. However desperate attempts by the Dynamites brought them back into contention.
The set became a hum ding encounter that no one would have really predicted the winner. Continuing with their pulsating action filled entertainment the score board was kept ticking evenly all the from 19-19 to 26-26. The Free State grabbed a 28-26 victory when a desperate attempt by a Dynamite attacker to ‘hit the bladder out of the ball” type of attack flew out of bounds.
The entertaining 5th set enjoyed great crowd support. When the Free State Giants changed sides with a 8-6 lead there was every indication that the Giants will seal the encounter with a hard fought 3-2 win.
When key attacker, “the injured” Lemohang Possa received a quick reverse set from play maker Thabo Mokoena Lemohang put aside his injury and blasted the attack past the opposition blockers to post a 15-9 victory.
Having led his team to victory Possa limped off the court in agony.
WESTERN CRANES V MAPUNGUBWE WARRIORS
The clash between Western Cranes and Mapungubwe Warriors ended as a “giant killing” exercise by the latter whose fiery display of power volleyball stunned the number one seeds who went on to succumb to a 25-14 drubbing in the opening set.
Starting the encounter as under dogs the Warriors’ showed no respect towards their more fancied opponents and threw caution to the wind and decided to “die with their boots on” for a maiden victory against the Cape side.
Keeping the pressure on their opponents the Limpopo lads led by 15-8 and there after at 22-19 enjoying great crowd support. Cranes’ attack force spearheaded by Clint Stemmet, Freedom Chiya and Ethan May levelled matters at 24-24. The explosive set ended in favour of the Warriors when Abram Maphurumela who was never afraid to ‘pull the trigger’ against the mighty Cranes blockers, Velisha Ntshuntshe and Lee Sullivan set the court alight when he fired home a bullet attack to clinch the set by a heart stopping 27-25 score line.
Refusing to roll over and play dead in the face of the Warriors rampant attack force the Western Cranes fought back relying on their enormous experience playing at this level of competition to take the 3rd and 4th sets with a 25-18 and 25-16 score line that levelled matters at 2-2. They now focused on regaining their pride and top seed status in the deciding 5th set.
Things didn’t go well for the top seeds as the Warriors stood steadfast in defence picking up everything that were” thrown their way” in the deciding 5th set. Taking a run away 11-6 lead shocked the Western Cranes.
At a crucial time in the rallies an error in judgement in the back court on the part the Cranes handed the set to the jubilant Mapungubwe Warriors by a 15-8 margin.
DIAMOND KUDUS V EASTERN CAPE EAGLES
Playing in their final round robin match in the 2018 National Volleyball League (NVL), the Eastern Cape Eagles coach Sparrow Maarman rested his “big 4” players , Shaun Diedericks (setter); Rashid Jappie (middle blocker) and attackers, Peter Size and Yaseen Hendricks for the encounter against bottom of the log Diamond Kudus from the Northern Cape.
Such was the confidence that coach Maarman had that his largely 2nd string players will do the job for the team with a straight sets victory.
Taking a 12-5 lead the Eagles youngsters led by play maker Siphelele Antony set the stage for a first set victory with a steady supply of opportunities for his attackers Sureshin Moothoo, Areeb Sookdin and Thembelani Nogwina who did not disappoint and kept their team in the lead.
A spirited response from the Kudus’ big hitters, Michael Smith, Boitumelo Moloto and Mvuleni Tap closed the points gap. From a 19-17 lead the Eagles soared to end the set with a morale boosting 25-17 win, albeit by their 2nd string team.
The tightly contested 2nd set had its moments of powerful exchanges at the net that brought respectful nods from the crowd.. When the scores were tied at 18-18 the Eagles attackers gradually put day light between themselves and their opponents. Reaching 25 points with some fine attacking the Eagles ended the set by a 25-21 margin thus pouring cold water on any attempts by the Diamond Kudus of up setting them.
Racing to a 7-1 lead in double quick time the Eastern Cape Eagles won the 3rd set with a 25-12 score line.
KINGDOM RHINOS V GAUTENG THUNDERBOLTS
Any match between Kwa Zulu Natal and Gauteng clubs or at the provincial level is played like a “test match” between countries. Powerful attacking, solid blocking and desperate attempts to recover balls that were played hard of the
blocks were the order of the day in such encounters between KZN and Gauteng.
Arguably the match of the day was between the Kingdom Rhinos (KZN) and the Gauteng Thunderbolts, a contest of epic propositions especially as the Gauteng team had three of KZN’s “home grown talents” on their team sheet: Keifer Govender, Jamine Naidoo and Nathan Ernest who always had a point to prove against their “home province”.
With a partisan crowd behind the home side the Rhinos swung into action taking a 5-3 lead. Capitalising on recurring “state of disarray” in the Thunderbolts camp the Rhinos pushed the scores to 11-6 through sparkling performances by attackers Devin O’ Regan and Sandile Khoza.
Unable to pick up the pieces as a result of a loss of rhythm among the Thunderbolts attackers especially Keifer Govender who was later substituted and the left handed Thabiso Lekoloane who were blocked time and again much to their frustration. Rhinos skipper, Quwin Naidoo was superb both as a leader and attacker as he led his team to a morale boosting 25-18 first set win
The action packed 2nd set saw a more determined Thunderbolts get their act together and take the fight to the home side. Rhinos’ skipper Quwin Naidoo demonstrated why he was KZN’s most feared attacker as he tormented his opponents with clinical finishing from the net and as a back court attacker.
Quick reverse setting from play maker Kiresh Harilal gave middle attacker Loueshan Gungarajh free spikes to pound his attacks.
Once again in this competition the Rhinos were guilty of committing far too many unforced errors especially net touches and faulty services.
Like manna from heaven the Gauteng Thunderbolts grab the opportunity and kept the Rhinos within their sights hoping to pounce at the right time to capture the set.
The Rhinos power attacker Sandile Khoza was a star performer as he received thunderous applause from the partisan crowd every time he unleashed his blistering attacks that kept the Rhinos’ hopes alive of winning the set.
The crowd lapped up the power play as the scores were tied all the way from 21-21 to 27-27. The Rhinos’ power hitter, Sandile Khoza was the toast of the fans as he was merciless in attack. At this stage of tied scores Rhinos skipper Quwin Naidoo realised that any slip up by his attack force would hand the set to the Gauteng lads.. At a heart stopping 27-27 Thunderbolts’ Keifer Govender was blocked solid with the ball directed firmly to the floor.
To add insult to injury Keifer Govender suffered a similar fate when he was stuff blocked at 28-27 that gave the Rhinos a breath taking 29-27 win. The fans displayed their joy with thunderous applause.
For the crest fallen Gauteng Thunderbolts the crucial 3rd set became a “do or die” encounter. Thunderbolts brought on former KZN attacker Nathan Ernest for the demoralised Keifer Govender to boost their chances of victory.
Ernest was successful in registering two points in a row but was quickly contained by the rampant Rhinos blockers.
The Thunderbolts hopes now rested squarely on the shoulders of the vastly experienced Jamine Naidoo, a former KZN star attacker to reignite their attack force.
Sadly for Naidoo the Rhinos blockers focused their attention on him, taking him out each time much to the delight of the home fans.
With the Gauteng team seemingly unable to offer any resistance to up set the high riding Kingdom Rhinos, skipper Quwin Naidoo latched on to a quick reverse set from play maker Kiresh Harilal to the utility position which Naidoo blasted home to register a straight sets win (3-0).
The win put the Kingdom Rhinos at the top of the log standings.
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