Durban – The South Africa and New Zealand teams put the pressure on International Surf Rescue Challenge test one winners Australia during the second test that was shortened by heavy surf conditions at North Beach on Sunday.
Australia showed their dominance on Saturday but it was Sunday’s conditions that levelled the playing fields and saw the Kiwi and South African teams close the gap significantly on a truncated day.
After Saturday’s opening test the Australian team made it clear that they were going to be the team to beat and the defending champions set the bar high for the rest of the teams.
The South African finished the first test in third position after a relatively slow start to the competition, but on Sunday a determined team took to the surf and the beach and the number of gold medals increased dramatically.
In the morning session alone the South African team bagged three gold medals. All three came in the senior division in the men’s beach sprint, the mixed board relay and the men’s beach sprint relay.
After the dramatic injury to Ryle de Morny during the flags event in the first test Sameer Matthews stepped into his position for the beach sprint and showed the depth of South African beach sprinters, winning an exciting men’s beach sprint.
“I am still fairly new to the sport so there was a bit of intimidation at the start,” Matthews said candidly.
“To get the win is incredible and I have to thank all those people who have supported me, there’s a big team behind me.”
It was the Notten siblings who combined for the second of the morning’s golds when Anna and Nick won the mixed board relay.
Nick Notten was then involved again when he, Matthews, Travis Misdorp and elder Notten brother Dom won the men’s beach sprint gold.
The team swim events saw more dominance from Australia as both the juniors and open races were tightly controlled while the highlight was Prue Davies coming first overall in the open team swim event.
The two youth ski events produced drama aplenty with the surf causing mayhem as they paddled out. It was New Zealand and Australia who dominated the women’s and men’s ski race in the heavy surf.
With the sea conditions starting to turn for the worst the safety committee took the decision to suspend water events before both senior ski races.
In the flags arena the Australian strangehold on the gold medals was broken by Japan's Shohgo Horie who repeated his sensational win in ther open men's final on Saturday.
South African team captain attributed the narrowing of the Australian dominance to some shrewd team selections and tenacity in the tough ocean conditions.
“We knew it was going to be hard today but we were up for it,” sais South African team captain Dom Notten. “My brother and sister set the bar in the mixed board, and then we had a real challenge with the beach sprint relay.
“With Ryle (de Morny) out injured we have no reserves, so we had one beach specialist is Sameer Matthews and three paddlers. So to win that was pretty special.
“While we had no choice in the open men’s selections, the juniors rotated nicely today and that showed in the results. The management and choices for the team events is so important in lifesaving,” he added.
Beach coach and icon of Australian lifesaving Shannon Eckstein was happy with how the event went on day one and appreciates the tough conditions on day two.
“These conditions are similar to what the team members from the Gold Coast or Brisbane would be used to and you don’t want no surf so it’s been a good challenge,” he said.
“When you go to train these are the conditions you want because you want to train how you race.
“New Zealand has tested us today and it’s good for the sport that there are countries from around the world that are testing us.
“Our guys are feeling the pressure but they are enjoying it!”
The third and final test in the series ahs been moved forward to Tuesday as a result of adverse weather that is predicted for Durban on Wednesday.
INTERNATIONAL SURF RESCUE CHALLENGE SECOND TEST
New Zealand 72
South Africa 59
New Zealand 64
South Africa 56