WHILE the battle for supremacy for this year's South African Inter-Provincial title will go down between the Western Province, Central Gauteng and Boland in today's final round, the B-Section was effectively decided at Port Elizabeth Golf Club yesterday.
Twelve months after they were dropped from the A-Section, the Southern Cape squad arrived in the windy city with a well-laid plan to win back the hard-fought promotion they gained at Durban Country Club in 2010.
They plotted a course, executed it to perfection and have reaped the rewards.
Southern Cape collected 10 points with five consecutive wins and pulled together a games count of 42.5 on their way to ascendancy. Yesterday they enjoyed a bye and sat back to see how things unfolded between Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. In reality, the die had been cast.
Match play is the purest from of competition in golf and the country's premier teams' championship is one of permutations, strategies, combinations, batting orders and big-match temperament.
Although Eastern Province found all of the above in the second and fourth rounds, the favourites let themselves down on day one, and effectively wrote themselves out of contention.
Incompatible foursome combinations and the failure to use their home course advantage in gusting wind saw the side play catch-up from the start.
What followed that 7½ - 4½ first-round loss to Southern Cape should have happened on Monday – solid victories over Free State and Northern Cape and Ekurhuleni on Tuesday, a superb performance to beat Border 8½ - 3½ and a 6½ -5½ triumph over Mpumalanga in a dogged battle that went down to the wire yesterday.
Performances like these should have seen Eastern Province going into an epic battle with Southern Cape for promotion. Instead, Eastern Province will tackle North West in the final round, knowing they are playing for second best.
Team manager Richard Hargreaves says they have no one to blame but themselves.
"It's a tough pill to swallow for the whole team, but especially for the veterans, to know we brought this on ourselves," he said. "But we are all big enough to acknowledge our mistakes.
"Southern Cape have such an impressive lead that, even if they lose 12-0 to Ekurhuleni and we beat North West 12-0, we will still fall short on games. It's a tough reality."
Southern Cape manager John Mitchell refused to get carried away. "We'll play hard and once we've won, we will celebrate hard. But not before."