The St Andrew’s College First water polo team travelled to East London on Thursday 14 February to participate in the annual Vides U19 Water Polo tournament, the oldest Water Polo tournament in the country in its 43rd year of existence. St Andrew’s had a tough task ahead of them in defending their trophy that they won in 2018, as they would be challenged by 20 teams from around the country, all descending on the Buffalo City.
SAC topped their pool with dominant and clinical performances on Friday 15 February. They beat Glenwood High School from Durban 15-5, then beat Alexander Road High School 20-2 followed by a win against Northwood High School 12-3. Finally, in their final game of the day, the Blues beat Stirling 10-8. The match against Stirling saw four of the players receiving their 100th cap for the St Andrew’s first team. Joshua Cowen, Lloyd Koster, Joel Vides and Nicholas Sutherland joined Matthew Hillary (164 caps) and Connor Stulich (139 caps) to reach this remarkable milestone.
The success of topping Pool C meant that the team went directly through to the quarter finals on Saturday 16 February. They were up against hosts, Selborne, in an absolute nail biter.
The home side, with crowd behind them, had a dream start and the St Andrew’s had their backs against the ropes at 4-1 down in the third chukka. But there was some remarkable character and grit shown by the St Andrew’s players to draw the score level to 5 goals apiece. Joel Vides managed to squeeze the ball under the Selborne keeper’s arms to draw the game with just under 10 seconds to go on the match clock. The match went to a penalty shootout and SAC ended victorious beating Selborne 3-2 in penalties to advance to the semi-finals.
They were to face a much-fancied Paul Roos side in the first semi-final in the late afternoon on Saturday. Again the St Andrew’s team started slowly, having to claw their way back after being down 3-0 after the first chukka as a result of some outstanding shooting from the Paul Roos back three. It was an immense performance to overcome the men from Stellenbosch with the winning goal being a penalty that Cowen converted with just 20 seconds to go on the clock. Paul Roos put all effort in with their goal keeper coming right up the pool to join the attack. There was an excellent shot from the Paul Roos number 2 that hit the inside of the upright and ricocheted behind the goalkeeper Nic Sutherland and across the face of the goal. A nervous end, but the miss meant that St Andrew’s were through to the Final.
Reddam House Constantia in Cape Town overcame a very talented Grey High School (Port Elizabeth) outfit to contest the final on Sunday morning, 17 February. The game was incredibly tense with both sides trying to figure each other out early on. It was the team from Cape Town that scored first and really played out of their skin. Both teams defended brilliantly, and the scores were level for most of the game. The Reddam goalkeeper had an outstanding game and managed to save two one on ones and several excellent shots from the St Andrew’s team. However, it was a clinically executed extra man move that saw Cowen scoring a brilliant goal to give St Andrew’s a 4-3 lead with just under a minute left on the clock. However, Reddam were not going to go down without a fight and struck back immediately with an extra man move of their own when they took advantage of a mistake made by the St Andrew’s defense.
The game was level with 30 seconds to play and St Andrew’s, with a timeout and one last opportunity to win the game. Poor passing and a fumble saw Reddam steal the ball with just two seconds remaining on the match clock. Reddam coach, Ryan Weideman, called time out to try a sneaky long-range shot. The ball went wide, and the match ended in a draw. This meant yet another penalty shootout. Shooters Hillary, Cowen and Nicholas Jelley were the men responsible for trying to win the trophy for St Andrew’s. It was an outstanding save by Sutherland and clinical shooting from Hillary, Cowen and Jelley that meant St Andrew’s College were victorious and retained the converted Vides Trophy for the second year in a row.
This is an outstanding achievement and reflects grit and determination from the young 1st team. This is the sixth time St Andrew’s has won the tournament in the last ten tournaments after the 2010 First team won it for the first time. It is also the second time St Andrew’s has won back to back titles following on from the 2013 and 2014 First teams.
Three players were recognized for their performances this weekend. Cowen and Vides were both selected as part of the tournament team. Joining them was Hillary, who was also named Best Player of the tournament.