South Africa’s Ultimate Mixed Nationals took place in the beautiful Kwazulu Natal Midlands over the past long weekend. While many of my teammates took a relaxed-ish drive down to Mixed Nationals with lunch stops and and other touristy things, I had to work. Booo.
Counting down the hours until work-leaving-time was excruciating. 16:30 – time to go! Quick dash (as quick as it can be in JHB traffic) to fetch frisbee stuff and pickup a fellow Skyveld teammate and we were ready to go! Driving the entire distance from Johannesburg to Howick in darkness was uneventful apart from a quick splash-n-dash stop for fuel and Pringles. Once we exited the N3 the gravel road to Curry’s Post rose up out of the darkness to meet us. The darkness along with some fog ensured that I had no idea of what the scenery around me looked like. We arrived at our accommodation close to midnight, long after the rest of Skyveld apart from one, had gone to bed (thanks for waiting up for us George!)
Waking up I was not prepared for the beauty of my surroundings. With the sun peaking its head over the nearby mountains and mist blanketing the dew covered grass – it was a stark contrast to the concrete jungle we had abandoned a few hours earlier.
Waking up to this!
The rest of the morning was a flurry of activity greeting teammates, trying on our spiffy new kit, breakfast and preparing for the short drive to the amazing Karkloof Country Club fields. Shoutout to Mitch from Catch22 for the amazing design!
Day 1 breakfast!
First game of the tournament was against the Long Donkeys – 3 time consecutive Nationals winners a stern test for any team to be sure. Having played the Donkeys twice previously in the past 2 weeks (one of which was a loss at in the final of the Binnelanders tournament) we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Skyveld was ready and focused. I don’t remember much from the game apart from Justus getting a layout D and breaking two bones in his right arm in the process. The game ended with us losing 15-7 in the end. Definitely a hard fought game!
The second game of the day was against Chilli Legends. The legends definitely have some legends in their ranks with Ant Pascoe collecting the award at prize-giving for the “most experienced player” having played in 15 previous Nationals tournaments. Skyveld was definitely not ready for the burn that taking on the Chilli Legends had to offer and went down 8 -1 at half time. A little shell-shocked we regrouped and managed a much more respectable second half performance scoring 8 points to Chilli’ Legend’s 7 in the 2nd half. In a game of two halves winning the game after being so far behind at HT was always going to be a big ask and proved to be a bridge too far with Skyveld losing 15-9 to Chilli Legends in the end. The 2nd loss of the day condemned us to having no chance of finishing in the top 8.
Day 2 began with a game against Hammerheads from East London with whom we were sharing our accommodation. Having treated them as the “enemy” for the past day we now had to battle it out for the 3rd place spot in our group. Having identified some deficiencies in our preparation for the previous game against Chilli Legend we arrived at the fields early (the first team to arrive) and began warming up. The game was intense and hard fought with both teams giving it everything. Skyveld ran out 15-8 winners in the end. Whoo the first win of the tournament.
Bright and early!
The 2nd game of the day was against the UCT 2nd team. A team maybe short on experience but definitely not short on skill or heart. An incredibly well spirited match ensued with Skyveld maintaining our focus and tight defence carrying over from the game against the Hammerheads from East London. The tight defensive play from Skyveld worked to generate a number of turnovers especially close to the UCT end-zone. Skyveld went into half-time 8-4 up and ended up winning the game 15-4. The win against UCT meaning that we were now playing for spots 9-12 in the country. This match against UCT 2nd’s was probably my favourite game of the tournament because of how well spirited it was and how competitive it was too with the scoreline not really being a true reflection of how the game went. Fun fact: 13 of the 15 points scored against UCT 2nd’s were scored by the ladies! Awesome!
Lets talk mental toughness! Thanks Sal!
Princesses and Sean! & 44/66 of all Immelmans at the tournament.
Day 3. Somewhat aching bodies climbed out of bed – probably not as achy as they could have been thanks to Sally’s incredible persistence with stretch parties and getting us ready with #RoadToNationals stretching reminder messages. First game of the day was against the tournament hosts – Lions River Ultimate, a team almost all of us had never played with or against before. What followed was a chaotic hour of long hucks and hard work on defence, and a 12 year old scoring from a long downfield huck.
Skyveld claimed their 3rd consecutive win of the tournament beating Lions River convincingly in the end with a 15-6 result. This result meant that we were playing for the top spot in the bottom bracket with silverware on the line. What was yet to be decided was our opponents for the “finals” match. The contenders were the Bunnies from Durban or a combined Rangers(JHB)/Salusa45(CT) team who were trading points on the field next door.
The final match of Mixed Nationals was played against the Bunnies from Durban. Game time! What followed was extremely competitive ultimate with fast cuts, crafty throws, and some well placed hammers. However fatigue began to catch up with Bunnies and some errant throws and some hard work on defence gave us (YEAH SKY!) the break points we needed to create a lead and pull ahead. Skyveld finished the game as 15-4 winners! We finished in 9th place in Nationals (2 places better than 2016, and 6 places better than 2015).
We won a thing!
A big shoutout to George who took on the role of Spirit Captain in his first frisbee tournament ever and did a sterling job. Thanks to the Comm for all their hardwork and effort leading into this tournament. Also big thanks to Lazya (le Slayer!) and Kruger from Potch for coming to play with us, and Carol from Soweto Ultimate too!
Joining a new team can be a pretty scary thing for some, and at the start of the year I was a nervous and apprehensive about finding a place in the team, but Sky fixed that so incredibly quickly. After 4 short months Skyveld holds an incredibly special place in my heart. The people that made up this team are more like a family, and I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend a long weekend than with my Skyveld teammates. The most incredible, funny, kind, caring, passionate and downright awesome group of people ever! (No Jokes). Post tournament depression is real and I wish I could do it all again next weekend. JOL! JOL! JOL!
Skyveld South Africa Mixed Nationals 2017