Decorated Proteas bowler Jason Evans delivered a thrilling final bowl of the 2021 National Men's Championship in Cape Town.
Evans, who skipped 18-year-old Luan Cronje, claimed the pairs gold medal in dramatic fashion on Sunday as he sealed victory with his fourth and final bowl of the match.
The pairs final was the last match out on the greens at Western Province Cricket Club and it was a titanic battle as the Roosevelt Park duo were kept in check by the young Stella Park pair of Wayne Roberts and Deon Audie.
As the finale twisted and turned, it appeared that Evans was on track to win gold for just the second time in this discipline in the national championships as his side started the final end three shots clear. That lead evaporated as Audie and then Roberts piled on the pressure and lay four shots with just Evan's final wood to follow.
The experienced campaigner held his nerve, just as he had done throughout the contest, and rolled his own bowl over once on the forehand to cut the deficit from four to just one. And with that he proved once again that he is one of the very best in the sport.
"It was such a good match and what an ending," said Evans beaming shortly after winning the title with the score line settling at 16-14.
"With that last bowl, I had some options ... I knew I had to trust the bend and my bowl. I was looking to sit my bowl or turn it in, and yeah, the weight was right.
"Maybe the nerves were there a little bit on the last end for my partner. Luan, you know ... he played so well the whole week and to show his composure at just 18, he's got such a bright future. Kudos to him! He was solid and for everyone watching, to see him, at just 18, to win a major title. It's just fantastic for him. For our club. A great ending for us.
"We are going to have to try to defend our title next year. Hopefully international commitments allow for it. Youth is the future of the game and I would encourage all Proteas to link up with the youngsters and bring them through.
"I can't praise our opponents enough. Wayne had a great week and he's knocking on the door for sure. We have to encourage them."
Sunday's final day was full of drama as Niksa Benguric and Bradley Robinson traded shots all morning in the Open final. Both had swept aside their semi-finalists 21-7 earlier in the day and were in fine form throughout their first to 21 match. Robinson, playing out of Bryanston Sports, moved into a 17-12 lead before Benguric rallied.
There was little to separate the two as Robinson got within one shot before Benguric drew on everything he had to level the scores at 20 all. The final end was decided by a few inches as Robinson was unable to move the white as Benguric claimed gold. The winner, hailing from Wingate Park, was at a loss for words after being crowned the country's best for 2021.
"To be honest, I'm still in shock. What a day and what a contest in the final," he said.
The Veteran's final was an all-Cape battle between Callie van der Merwe (Robertson Bowling Club) and Peter Bryant (Western Province Cricket Club). The match was initially close and hard-fought before Van der Merwe pulled away to win 21-9.
"I was a late entry you know," said the winner. "Next year, I better make sure I have enough leave days to play the nationals again."
In the Fours' final, Rustenburg Impala came from 20-8 down after 17 ends to force an extra end against Pretoria Municipals. Needing a four on the last end to draw the match, Impala skip, Ferdie Jansen, played a beautiful backhand over the draw that moved the Municipals' closest bowl out of the way while Jansen's own bowl ran onto the jack to lie four.
In the extra end, it was Jansen again who delivered some magic as he managed to draw the jack off the Municipal's shot bowl. But this time around, he left just enough room to allow his opposing skip, Mike O'Connor Snr, a chance to win the game. And after being unable to win gold for his side in regulation, O'Connor Snr had the weight and line with his second attempt to ensure his side ended on the right side of the scintillating final.
"Ferdi and his team ... what a comeback from them. They put us under pressure at the end and yeah, it was a thrilling game throughout," said O'Connor Snr.
"I'm so proud of my team, each and every one of them. Our plan was to live the dream with each game right from the pool stage and after every game, we kept it alive.
"I will be showing my grandkids and their kids the clip on YouTube for sure. To win it like that was brilliant but it was even more special to win it with such a great bunch of guys. Saying that, the camaraderie throughout the tournament between all opponents was fantastic. Every player here was a credit to their clubs and districts and to the sport. It makes this game so enjoyable to play."
With as many as six of the 14 players on the final green under the age of 40, the best of best this week proved bowls is a sport for all ages.