EASTERN Province suffered their third consecutive loss at the South African Mid-Amateur Interprovincial in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, and in doing so edged ever closer to relegation.
The EP side, who have suffered a miserable time in the competition's A Section this week, slipped to an 8-4 loss against Western Province.
EP were promoted to the top flight after winning the B Section at Humewood Golf Club last year.
Expectations were high when the team left for Bloemfontein last week, but losses against Central Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal placed them on the back foot from the outset.
Only Johnny Ludick, Morris Olivier and Attie Burger managed victories.
Central Gauteng assumed top spot with a third-round victory over neighbours Ekurhuleni. Looking to go one better than their runner-up finish at Humewood, Central Gauteng began their campaign with a solid 7-5 result against Boland in the first round and a comprehensive 10-2 win over Eastern Province in round two.
Although the Ekurhuleni team took control in the early stages of the morning foursomes, Central pushed in the closing holes to secure a 2½-1½ lead after the foursomes. The side held their slender lead to win 6½ - 5½ and take the lead in the log.
Central Gauteng manager Marinus Weiss said both teams were a bit shaken at the start of the match after learning that several members of the Mpumalanga squad were involved in an accident on their way to the golf course.
"It was a traumatic thing to hear so early in the morning and the players were unsettled.
"No one could confirm the extent of the players' injuries at first," he said.
"It was difficult to get going and I think the players only started to focus after we heard that although some players suffered cuts and contusions, no one was seriously injured."
Weiss described the afternoon singles as "extremely tight".
Beating their neighbours was their toughest task to date, he said.
"It was without a doubt our toughest match this week. I have to say that I was incredibly impressed by the spirit with which both teams play.
"They may be equally competitive, but there was a wonderful spirit and camaraderie on the course."
Weiss said his team would dedicate their victory to the Mpumalanga team, who was forced to withdraw from the tournament, should they triumph today.
In the other A Section match, defending champions KwaZulu-Natal beat Boland 6½-5½.
The third round results were:
EP 4 WP 8 (EP players listed first), Foursomes: Zingela/Ludick lost to Buchanan/Johnston 2/1; Ferreira/Konzani halved with Sheard/Oosthuizen; Prinsloo/du Preez lost to van der Merwe/Roux 7/6; Olivier/Burger lost to van Rensburg/October 2/1; Singles: Johnny Ludick beat Giles Buchanan 4/3; Mzuyanda Zingela lost to Dirk van der Merwe 2/1; Attie Burger beat Weyers van Rensburg 2/1; Karl du Preez lost to Brian October 4/3; Morris Olivier beat Greg Sheard 3/2; Ryno Ferreira lost to Cameron Johnston 6/5; David Konzani halved with Robbie Oosthuizen; Anton Prinsloo lost to Gerlou Roux 1 down
C Gauteng 6½ Ekurhuleni 5½
KZN 6½ Boland 5½
S Cape 4 FS and NC 8
S Cape 3½ North West 8½
FS and NC5 North West 7
A Section log (games count in brackets): 1 Central Gauteng 6 (23.5), 2 Ekurhuleni 4 (21), 3 KZNl 4 (20.5), 4 WP 4 (18), 5 Boland 0 (16.0), 6 Eastern Province 0 (9.0)