Men’s Final: KZN Kingdom Rhinos v Western Cape Cranes



Men’s Final: KZN Kingdom Rhinos  v  Western Cape Cranes

The 2019 NVL men’s final between the KZN Kingdom Rhinos and the Western Cape Cranes was a repeat of the 2018 NVL final which ended in a pulsating five set thriller in favour of the Western Cranes by a narrow 15-13 margin. For the Rhinos it was a bitter pill to swallow albeit losing to their arch rivals on home turf at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal’s Westville Campus Sports Centre.

This time round it was sweet revenge for the KZN Kingdom Rhinos as they defeated the Cranes in straight sets (3-0), 25-23; 25-23; 25-14 to wrestle the coveted silverware away from the defending champions.

With both teams throwing caution to the wind their respective attackers got on with the job of posting quick points on the board. The Cranes Clint Stemmet fired the first salvo to indicate that his team is going to take the silverware back to the Mother City. The Rhinos’ prolific outside hitter, Devin O’ Regan responded with awesome power to keep the Rhinos on track for an upset victory. Joining O’ Regan in attack were Jonas Ofentse, Reolan Ramdeen and Quwin Naidoo.

The power attacks and blocking combinations kept the fans entertained. The crowd were lavish in their acknowledgement of the long drawn out rallies and power play as the teams kept the score board ticking evenly. While Stemmet and the left handed Ethan May were always the danger –men for the Rhinos, efforts by middle blocker Loueshan Gangarajh kept them at bay. Gangarajh was also lethal in attack picking up valuable points in the process. With the score at 23-22 in favour of the KZN lads the Cranes Ethan May stepped up to deliver an ace bullet jump serve to level matters at 23-23. With the set poised to go either way it was Devin O’ Regan and Loueshan Gungarajh who went on to close proceedings with a hard fought 25-23 win.

The 2nd set was a real humdinger that had the crowd joining in the action applauding every block, attack and pick up in the covers. Judging from the intensity of the power play meted out by both teams one could easily have mistaken the encounter as        a “ full scale war “ between two hostile countries. For the Cranes the 2nd set was a must win set as a two set deficit will be increasingly difficult to claw their way back into contention and refocus on victory. Energy sapping moments will make the task at hand even more difficult to accomplish. Once again the Cranes led by Stemmet and May put the pressure on the Rhinos defence at the net to score quick points. Had it not been for strong blocking by Loueshan Gungarajh the Cranes would have succeeded in levelling matters at 1-1. At crucial times Gungarajh and Quwin Naidoo sealed the net with their big blocking action to contain the Cranes rampant attack force. At  24-23 in favour of the KZN team Ethan May’s trade mark bullet serve sped out of bounds much to the relief of the Rhinos back court receivers. The Rhinos were handed a    25-23  second set victory.

With a 2-0 lead in a best of 5 sets final the KZN lads stepped up a few gears to prevent a spirited come back from the Western Cape Cranes. The Rhinos’ skipper, Quwin Naidoo started the ‘ball rolling’ with three ace serves that laid the platform for a quick fire unassailable 11-3 lead. Sparkling performances from Loueshan Gungarajh, Quwin Naidoo and Jonas Offentse put the Rhinos firmly in the driving seat. Attempts from Stemmet, May and Leonardo Booysens could not stop the KZN Rhinos capturing the 3rd set with a resounding 25-14 score line to reach the podium as the 2019 NVL gold medallists.



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