Southern Gauteng hockey coach Adrian Carolan conceded in Cape Town at the weekend after losing the national championship to defending champions Western Province that the opposition always had the edge over them.
The teams, both favourites and the only ones to ever win this tournament in its 16-year history, were drawn at 2-2 after regulation time and extra time, and the championship had to be decided by penalty flicks. WP won 5-4.
The Gauteng team had earlier scored two goals in the third and 20th minutes of the first half through Anika Fischer and Sharne Bailey, silencing the vocal home crowd who were there rooting for their team.
Shelley Russell pulled one back for WP in the 34th minute and Megan Robertson levelled the score in the 61st minute to set up a thrilling end to the week-long tournament, as both teams tried without success to get the winning goal.
Carolan afterwards acknowledged the immense advantage that WP, with their 12 national players, had over his team. "It is an achievement for us, with just four national players, to put up a credible fight against a team with twelve," Carolan said.
The triumphant coach, former national team player Kerry Bee, said her team's winning formula on the day was self-belief. "We never doubted that we could come back into it, even when we were 0-2 down. My players did what they were told, and it worked out to our advantage," Bee said.
Northern Gauteng, from Tshwane, won the losers' final, beating KwaZulu-Natal 4-0 to take the bronze medal.