It was a glorious final day of the 7 th leg of the Zone VI Beach Tour for the South African contingent as 3 of its teams reached the finals of the competition viz. Leo Williams & Danilo von Ludwiger will square up against country men, Thokozizi Ndingi & Jonas Motlhobi in the men’s final while Palesa Sekhonyana & Natasha Webber take on the tournament favourites, Sinaportar & Muniango from Mozambique in the
women’s final. To-date the Mozambican pairing have not lost a match on the year-long Zonal Beach Tour.
DANILO VON LUDWIGER & LEO WILLIAMS VS THOKO NDINGI & JONAS MOTLHOBI (all South African)
With the scalp of the tournament’s top seeds, Ainadino & Monjane from Mozambique under their belt the South African pairing of Danilo von Ludwiger and Leo Williams were spurred on to make history as the first team from South Africa to win gold at the Zone VI Beach Tour.
However, their country -men, Thoko Ndingi and Jonas Motlhobi stood in their way to victory. Clearly Thoko and Jonas enjoyed great crowd support as Thoko is a resident of Durban and Jonas played club volleyball in KZN for many years. Taking advantage of the crowd support Thoko and Jonas were fired up to take on their more fancied opponents who hail from Cape Town (Leo) and Pretoria (Danilo).
While Jonas had a reputation of being a ‘master blaster’ attacker, he linked up well with Thoko whose clever use of the ‘cut shot’ and the occasion power drives kept them in the game against the team of Danilo & Leo that defeated the tournament’s number one seeds, Ainadino & Mojane from Mozambique in straight sets (2-0) in the semi-final stage to reach the final as the new favourites.
The opening set was tightly contested as both teams were probing each other weaknesses in order to exploit them to put quick points on the board. On several occasions the partisan crowd showed their appreciation equally with thunderous applause to both Jonas and Danillo when they fired home their trade mark bullet attacks. The fans enjoyed every minute of the hard fought rallies that kept the score
board ticking evenly.
Sadly for Thoko and Jonas when the scores were levelled at 13-13 they let the encounter slip through their fingers as unforced errors, especially poor service from Thoko at crucial times gave Danilo and Leo a 16-13 lead. With Danilo in superb attacking form he went on to close proceedings with a hard fought 21-17 score line.
The 2nd set was marred by a few ‘’suspect’’ calls from the referee against Danilo and Leo that put a momentary damper on their spirits. On the brighter side the power attacking ‘contest’ between Jonas and Danilo kept the crowd entertained. When ever crowd favourite, local lad Thoko popped up to execute his traditional ‘quick cut-shot’ it drew thunderous applause from the spectators.
Long rallies, solid blocking, deft touches into open spaces followed by desperate attempts to recover balls that came off the blockers hands kept the score board ticking. The crowd loved the ‘drama’ and salivated for more of that kind of action – packed volleyball.
With the scores at 18-16 in favour of Danilo and Leo, two (2) consecutive unforced errors from the crafty left handed maestro, Thoko Ndingi saw them staring at defeat. In the first instance a hard driven cross court – attack missed the side line by millimetres and zoomed out of bounds and into the spectators area (16-19). Losing his balance while moving away from the net resulted in Thoko ‘poking’ at the ball that
that failed to clear the height of the net (16-20). Refusing to roll over and play dead Jonas rose quickly of the burning sand and latched onto a short set off Thoko’s nimble fingers and powered off Danilo’s out stretched hands and out of bounds (17-20).
Coming out of a rally Danilo was poised to blast a quick set from Leo to close proceedings. However, Danilo chose to ‘roll the ball’ over Jonas’s huge block and landed ‘down the line’ in the back court area giving Thoko no chance of getting to the ball.
With a 2nd set 21-17 victory Danilo and Leo walked away with the zonal title as champions for the first time and a cash prize of $300. ‘’Hats-off’’ to the players, who despite the scorching Durban weather they did not fail to thrill and entertain the fans.
The final leg of the 8 leg Zone VI Beach Tour takes place in Vilanculos in Mozambique in February 2023.
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