Madibaz chess star plots upward curve in rankings

Nelson Mandela University student Charlize van Zyl emerged from a challenging Online Chess Olympiad tournament with fresh determination to improve her status in the sport.

The third-year BA media, communications and culture student was a member of the South African team which competed in the virtual international competition last month.

They did not qualify for the knockout stages, but Van Zyl said it was a fantastic experience to compare themselves against some of the best players in the world.

“It really was a great opportunity to play against these opponents as we usually don’t get such chances,” she said.

“Personally, this event has made me excited to keep working hard to reach the level of my opponents.

“There were some really great and memorable games played and I learnt from every game and every mistake.”

The tough nature of the competition, she added, was reflected by the fact that most of their opponents were higher ranked.

“I would have liked to have done better, but the quality of my games was good and almost all my opponents were Woman Grandmasters.

“The highlight of the tournament was my draw against a Grandmaster and one of the top female players in the world from Azerbaijan.

“After an exciting game where I had a winning position, I faced time pressure which led me to accept the draw.”

Van Zyl said the online format made for extremely intense competition.

“The biggest challenge was time as we only had 15 minutes, with an added five seconds per move.

“This goes by incredibly quickly as one minute you are calculating a variation and the next you realise that you have already lost three to five minutes!

“Additionally, it was fast-paced because of the playing schedule too. We had three rounds a day in a three-hour period, where each round started on the hour.

“This accommodated the various pools and teams to fit into the day, but it also meant we had very little time to prepare between rounds as we had to be on the Zoom call 15 minutes prior to starting.

“So you can just imagine the rush in-between games.”

Van Zyl said she had several objectives looking ahead, the top priority being the Olympiad which takes place in Russia next year in July.

“This tournament is a lot bigger, with no divided pools, which gives South Africa the chance to be the best performing African country.

“Therefore next year will revolve around working hard and preparing for this event, while I also want to substantially increase my rating and work towards attaining the title of Woman Grandmaster.

She is also a chess coach for students from around the world and their success and growth is a priority.

“Other than that, I will be doing my honours next year and studies are very important to me, so I will be balancing all of these things going forward.”

Van Zyl said there was a fascinating finale to the online tournament.

“The final saw a clash between Russia and India, two incredibly strong teams consisting of former world champions in different chess formats and some of the top male, female and junior players in the world.

“After a dramatic contest, where two of the Indian players lost their games on time due to a global internet outage, the president of FIDE (the international chess body) decided that India and Russia would be co-winners and both received gold.

“This was seen as controversial by fans and players, but was considered to be the only solution.”

Madibaz swimming stars show artistry in virtual championships

In a year that has thrown up a special set of challenges, transforming the impossible into the possible has been Madibaz artistic swimming star Courtney Musson’s mantra.

The 25-year-old, who graduated cum laude with a master’s in Human Movement Science this year, was selected for the national squad after placing second in the recent Sportex Artistic Swimming Championships, held in a virtual environment.

In a year turned upside down by Covid-19, Musson said she realised that life could change in a flash.

“The best lesson I have learnt is that you have to be willing to adapt to the world and the challenges it throws at you by being more creative. Nothing is impossible – we just have to make it possible.”

The unprecedented circumstances forced her to readjust her plans.

“I actually started the year with the focus of completing my master’s studies and I took the decision not to commit to international competitions early in the year in order to graduate in April.

“As Covid hit, there was uncertainty as to how sport would resume. I reviewed my outlook for the year to focus more on my weak points such as upper body strength.

“Unfortunately, last year I had an injury during a training camp and I had to work hard to get back to where I had been in terms of core strength and flexibility.”

Although the absence of the normal facilities made training more complex, she said it provided the opportunity to interact with others in the same situation.

“I participated in a number of Zoom sessions with clubs from around the world, including England, Malta, Turkey and the USA,” said Musson.

“It was such a privilege to learn from other synchro athletes and coaches who were experiencing the same lockdown restrictions. It was like we formed our own little virtual club and it gave the athletes from all the clubs something to look forward to each week.”

She said competitors went through a range of movements in the headstand position in the championships.

“An example saw us starting in a headstand. From here we lifted our legs to a 90-degree angle and held this position, before extending our legs straight up to the ceiling and again holding this position.

“We were judged on how accurate our positions were, overall strength, stability and our movement timing.

“In addition, we performed basic strength exercises such as a plank hold for a certain time and a specific number of push-ups. In these exercises the judges looked at technique and our overall upper body and core strength.”

She finished runner-up to Cape Town-based national teammate Emma Manners-Wood.

“We are currently one (Manners-Wood) and two respectively in the national open division. We were pretty close to each other in our final scores and since this was my first virtual competition, I was very pleased.”

Another Madibaz student-athlete, Nina Smith, was included in the squad. The first-year dietetics student described the competition as “an amazing experience”.

“It made the judges and the swimmers think outside of the box as we usually only compete in the water. It was a good challenge,” said the 20-year-old who, like Musson, has been selected for national squads in the past.

“I feel very proud at making the squad and am excited to compete for my country once again internationally.”

Madibaz name new coach to tackle Varsity Cup

New FNB Madibaz rugby coach Andre Tredoux wants to make Nelson Mandela University the institution of choice for talented players in the Eastern Cape.

The 42-year-old Tredoux, currently head coach of Russian club Moscow Slava, has been appointed to guide the team’s fortunes on their return to the top-flight Varsity Cup competition next year.

He is relishing a return to South Africa and described Madibaz as a passionate rugby university, whose team always made life difficult for visiting sides.

“Firstly we want to work to ensure Madibaz rugby becomes the preferred destination for the talent which exists in the Eastern Cape,” said Tredoux. “We want to help quality student-athletes develop to their full potential.”

The new Madibaz mentor has extensive experience in coaching, having spent time with South African provincial teams Free State Cheetahs and Leopards, while also developing his coaching pedigree in Japan.

He had a stint with Varsity Cup team Shimlas from Bloemfontein and acknowledged the tough challenge they always faced in Port Elizabeth.

“There is a lot of passion when it comes to Madibaz rugby and it was always a hard game. Having played in the Varsity Cup semifinals two years in a row (2013 and 2014), they have a proud history.”

With Blitzbok Tim Agaba and Springboks such as Garth Wright, Hennie le Roux and Schalk Burger senior from their ranks, he said Madibaz had a proven track record of developing players.

Tredoux places great emphasis on establishing relationships and said he tried to follow a “total smart rugby approach”.

“I have a huge passion for developing young men to reach their full potential, on and off the field. I’m always willing to walk the extra mile for my staff and players, and my coaching staff will work tirelessly to achieve the best possible results.

“My coaching philosophy is about all the players having a high skill level and the ability to make good decisions. We apply this to the job by having a certain framework to develop the skills required to play in this way.”

Madibaz Sport director Yoliswa Lumka said now that they had achieved their goal of regaining promotion to the Varsity Cup competition, they needed to assemble a technical team that would ensure that they were competitive.

“Andre has the necessary rugby coaching experience and understanding of university sport and we believe he will be the adhesive of the team that takes us to higher ground.”

Tredoux grew up in Amanzimtoti in KwaZulu-Natal and attended Free State University after matriculating from Kuswag High.

He turned out for Shimlas and College Rovers in Durban and developed an interest in coaching at schoolboy level while playing for Rovers.

When an injury ended his playing days he took his first job in 2003 as the Cheetahs U20 conditioning and skills coach. That proved the catalyst for his mentoring career.

He linked up with Slava Moscow as their head coach last year and has thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“But I must admit, it’s not ideal for family life over here and I was excited to get the chance to link up with Madibaz and to take on the challenges ahead,” he said.

“We look forward to the Friendly City and the beach and I can’t wait for a braai, biltong and building some great friendships.”

Tredoux added that planning was well under way for the Varsity Cup.

“We have assembled a coaching staff of Lubabalo Lento, Barend Pieterse, Luvuyo Mhlobiso, Siyanda Pinini (analyst), Rob Yates (high performance) and Nico Koen (manager).

“There have been several meetings and we have done a swot analysis. We have been looking at the recruitment of talented schoolboys for the long-term future and also the strengthening of our Varsity Cup squad.”

He said he understood the competitive nature of the competition, but they were “ready for the fight”.

“Our culture will be one where we will have to push the players outside their comfort zones, but also make it an enjoyable environment. It is an approach I believe the players will embrace.”

Chess star making all the right moves ahead of online Olympiad

Madibaz student Charlize van Zyl will use the time left ahead of South Africa’s entry into the Online Chess Olympiad to fine-tune her preparations for the competition in August.

This tournament has been set up after the actual Chess Olympiad, scheduled for Russia next month, was postponed to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this year Van Zyl was chosen for the South African team after she excelled in a qualification tournament where she won the women’s section by two points without suffering any losses.

Although the disruption caused by the pandemic has created some frustration, the 20-year-old said she was looking forward to the challenge when SA joins the competition on August 20.

“This online format is very different, but I really enjoy it,” she said. “We will be playing on our laptops or desktops on the biggest online chess-playing platform – Chess.com.

“We will be closely monitored through webcams and microphones, so although it is different to live chess as you are not directly facing your opponent, which in itself is a huge psychological factor, your every movement is still being watched.

“Other than that, it is a lot more comfortable than live competition or over-the-board chess as you can play from the comfort of your own home with no distractions caused by other players.”

The third-year BA student said one of the chief differences was the time allowed in which players had to make their moves.

“The time control will be quite different. For the normal Olympiad and most prestigious over-the-board tournaments, the time control allows games to stretch on for hours.

“But in this competition we will have 15 minutes, plus five seconds. This means that both you and your opponent will start with 15 minutes and get an additional five seconds added to your clock for every move that you make.

“It means that games will not exceed an hour.”

She said her preparations would focus mostly on playing many games in this time format to get used to it.

The online competition is divided into different sections and has already started with the base division (5). There are a further three divisions (4 to 2) for which teams from the lower sections will be able to qualify as the tournament progresses.

The top 15 teams from division two will join the 25 teams who have already been placed in the top division, which includes South Africa.

“Happily, being in the top division, we don’t have to follow this long play-off system in the next month,” said Van Zyl.

“Each team is made up of six boards with two male players, two female players and two U20 male and female players. Each board has a reserve player, so in total we are 12 players.

“It is going to be tough as we are already placed in the same division as strong chess countries such as Russia, China and the USA.

“But we still have some time to prepare and I am looking forward to testing myself against some of the best chess players in the world!”

Planning critical to success, say Madibaz cricket graduates

Planning critical to success, say Madibaz cricket graduates

Forward planning to ensure they could handle both their academic and sporting commitments was crucial to their success, say Madibaz cricketers Matthew Christensen and Luphumlo Ncanywa.

The Nelson Mandela University student-athletes graduated this year, Christensen with a BCom in business management and Ncanywa with a doctorate in chemistry.

Their journeys through varsity life were quite different though, with the 23-year-old Christensen doing his degree from 2015 to 2109, while Ncanywa, 32, began his studies back in 2005.

Besides proving themselves in the academic world, both made their mark on the cricket field for Madibaz.

Batsman Christensen rose to play for the EP Amateur team and attended the national academy, while Ncanywa, also a batsman, showed his talent by hitting a century in his first match for the varsity’s George campus side.

Born in Middledrift, the same Eastern Cape village as former Proteas fast bowler Mfuneko Ngam, Ncanywa said an interest in science led him to Nelson Mandela University.

“I enrolled for a BSc in chemistry in 2005, but I wasn’t doing so well,” he recalled. “Rather than quitting, someone during open day introduced me to polymer chemistry.

“Without informing my parents, I signed up for that and ended up obtaining that qualification.

“After working at [tyre company] Goodyear, I returned to studying in 2012 to try to obtain honours. I met Prof Paul Watts who introduced me to continuous flow chemistry and that has led to my doctorate.”

He said his philosophy was that life would always present obstacles.

“You need to understand this and know that you have to overcome them to achieve your goals by planning in advance. Also, you need to balance this with taking time out for some fun.”

Christensen also emphasised how important it was to prioritise academic commitments, especially in the first two years.

“First-year students need to plan carefully and finish as many modules as you can as early as you can,” he said, adding that the challenges multiplied if you were considered for representative teams or academies.

“Don’t be tempted to take it easy during your first and second years because if you can get the bulk of your studies done you will enjoy your sport much more as there won’t be as much pressure.”

Both cricketers underlined the importance of receiving support from parents and friends, as well as lecturers and Madibaz Sport management.

“Sometimes I had to schedule my practices for odd times to fit in with my study commitments,” said Christensen, who grew up in Cape Town but now lives in Port Elizabeth.

“The coaches and management were very understanding and supportive. A big thanks must go to [EP Senior Provincial coach] Piet Botha as he was always willing to assist if I had to write a test or leave a practice early.

“Mr Riaan Osman [Madibaz Sport deputy director] also played a tremendous role, especially in my first few years, helping me with the logistics off the field and the admin side of things for missing classes.

“That was essential to create harmony between sports and academics, while most lecturers were also very understanding when there were clashes in our commitments.”

Ncanywa reiterated Christensen’s views, saying his “excellent support system” was invaluable in him realising his dreams.

“There were always challenges on the academic front, but excelling was my number one priority so I relied heavily on the support I received from all quarters.”

For Christensen, his parents’ approach to his development was a significant factor.

“They were always believers in a good education. They said although they would never be able to guarantee that I would be a professional sportsman, the one thing they could guarantee me was an education.

“But they never put pressure on me to perform and that, in a strange way, instilled a desire in me to make sure I performed in all aspects of life.”

Despite the various challenges of excelling in both spheres, the importance of team camaraderie is not lost on Ncanywa.

“In my first official game for NMU cricket I scored a hundred and my coach gave me the nickname Centjie [Century]. Everyone in the team knows me by that nickname.

“Since I have obtained this qualification they have begun calling me Dr Centjie,” he added, laughing.

Madibaz graduates driven to balance sport and studies

Drive, old-school discipline and time-management skills are shared traits of the latest crop of Madibaz Sport graduates.

That – along with support from their families, friends, lecturers and coaches at Nelson Mandela University – have seen these student-athletes excel in their chosen fields.

Rugby scrumhalf Dundre Maritz, who graduated with an honours (cum laude) degree in economics, believed an unwavering commitment across the board had been his key to success.

“My mantra was what my father always told me to do – ‘to show up’,” said the 24-year-old, who had been a key figure in Madibaz gaining promotion to the Varsity Cup.

“Every day you need to show up in terms of work ethic, commitment, loyalty and determination.

“Looking back to matric, I probably should have been the last person to make it to where I am today. But I made a choice to rebuke mediocrity.”

From the onset, Maritz associated himself with individuals from various spheres who could help with his progress.

“They have played a massive role in my development as a student and athlete. I always had and still have access to valuable expertise and wisdom that you simply cannot buy.”

Supporting his sense of commitment was netball player Lindokuhle Manyisa, who sported a diploma in civil engineering.

“It is all about having discipline,” she said. “I had to pitch up for every practice and game, while keeping up with my academics.

“My coach, who rooted for us to do well academically, also motivated me.”

She said her teammates were brilliant on court and in the classroom, which made her believe that she could do it too.

Her message was to be as dedicated in your academics as you were in your sport.

“It’s not easy, but it’s possible.”

Alex Penhall, who is busy with his honours in psychology, said it was important to absorb the holistic experience of varsity life.

“I would say students must enjoy every second they get because time goes by so fast,” said the hockey star who believed discipline on and off the field was key.

“Manage your programme well and know when it is time to have fun and when it is time for work.”

Penhall said the Madibaz management team lent plenty of support, especially when it came to handling the inevitable injuries.

“There was always patience and understanding and that, combined with my passion for the game and will to succeed, drove me.”

Hannah Werth, a BSc graduate and top water polo player, emphasised the importance of always delivering her best, a quality that netted her academic and sports bursaries.

“The sports bursary was a great help, but to reach your full potential you have to give absolutely everything in all aspects,” she said, pointing to the fact that the sports aid motivated her to study hard, which led to the academic bursary.

She also spoke about finding the right balance.

“There is a time to work and a time to train, but importantly, there is a time to rest and have fun.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t add to that pressure.”

By his own admission, soccer player Kaashif Jassen faced tough academic times, but the support structure in his personal life and at the varsity was instrumental in him graduating with a degree in human movement science.

“I was challenged in my academics – a lot,” he recalled. “I think my peers and lecturers can testify to that. But their support was critical.

“Also, my friends have been crucial to my growth and successes. It is very important to have people around you who not only make you happy, but push and motivate you.”

Volleyball ace Bogolo Moloisi, now with an advanced diploma in business studies behind her name, said the backing she had received on the academic front was essential to her growth as a player.

“The biggest thing was the letter [of permission] when you needed to go away for games. I am so thankful that I had such supportive lecturers, because I know that there are some who reject those letters.”

She also emphasised the importance of time management.

“Balancing academics and sports is not easy. On one side you need to get that qualification, but there is also this sport you are so passionate about.

“The fact that I had the same load of work as other students was hard. I just developed my time management skills and learned to prioritise.”

Commitment was non-negotiable, said Moloisi.

“It is not easy, but nothing that is worth anything ever is. There will be hard times but as long as you have the desire you will find a way to make it all worth it.”

Sprinter Aidan Tuohy, who graduated with a sports management degree, emphasised the importance of a support structure and the role his parents and coach had played in helping him balance the workload associated with sport and academics.

“My parents would motivate me before every race and they were always proud of me no matter where I came. They just knew how to take the pressure off,” he said.

“It was the same with the Madibaz coaching staff, who helped me to work on my weak points. They also understood the importance of studying, allowing us to re-schedule training when there were academic commitments.”

Tuohy is also a proponent of proper planning.

“You have to stick to a timetable to balance academics and sport, because if you don’t, your marks will slip and you may under-perform in competitions.”

He enjoyed meeting new people, but emphasised the importance of controlling your lifestyle.

“Go out and socialise, but you must learn to balance social and athletics life and never forget your priorities in order to meet your goals.”

Madibaz coach instils combination of academics and sport

Madibaz coach instils combination of academics and sport

Madibaz squash mentor Jason le Roux believes a sensible combination of academic focus and sporting ambition can produce graduates worthy of making an impact on society.

The 37-year-old coach, who is also a leading player, has had an influential role in Nelson Mandela University’s squash fortunes since he moved to Port Elizabeth from East London in 2011.

After studying sport science and doing his honours at Nelson Mandela University, he was on the verge of heading to Cape Town in 2015 to become the UCT squash coach.

“However, in December [2014] an opportunity opened up at the Eastern Cape Academy of Sport, where I did my internship during my honours year,” he said.

“I was fortunate to get that position after applying and am now the acting co-ordinator for the Madibaz High Performance Centre at Nelson Mandela University.”

As a player for the varsity, Le Roux took over the coaching position when former Eastern Province player Richard Driscoll decided to leave.

“At that stage Richard was happy to move on and asked me if I would mind taking over the coaching of Madibaz squash,” said Le Roux. “Since 2013 I have officially been coaching Madibaz Squash and been the chairperson for the squash club.”

Competitive by nature, Le Roux, who has done the Ironman SA race in Port Elizabeth, said his aim for the players was to always achieve the best result possible.

But he acknowledged the top priority for student-athletes at the varsity was academics.

“As a mentor to them I want them to see that squash is a sideline to their future and studies,” he said. “But that does not mean you can’t give it your all on the court.

“Once you know the time you have for it, give it everything in that time and seek enjoyment out of improving and being the best you can be.

“I want players to create memories, stories and pride in themselves about what they achieved, both individually and for the team.

“Also the balance [with studies] is essential and the networking and what you learn from competition and training and how it develops you are vital. Don’t ignore it.

“The difference between you and the next person in the job interview can be your sport achievements and bosses like to see that you are a balanced and disciplined person.”

Le Roux emphasised the enjoyment side of the game rather than putting too much pressure on oneself as a player.

“My main goal as a coach is to keep these players playing squash and to help them enjoy squash and want to improve,” he added. “From there it is coaching them to improve and how to be their best.

“The most important issue I try get across is not to quit. Try to enjoy squash and the training, or the games only if that is what you want.

“If you can find the element of fun first, then you can look to grow in the game.”

The coach said the Eastern Cape region was blessed with considerable squash talent. Madibaz have gone through several years of success under his leadership.

From 2012 to 2015 they won the men’s Super league, a title they also claimed in 2017 and this year. They won the men’s first league title from 2012 to 2017, while the women’s team have been crowned first league winners in the past two years.

“There are plenty of exciting young players, but the struggle is to keep them in the Eastern Cape and to get them to study at Nelson Mandela University,” said Le Roux.

“At the moment four of our top five men and four women achieved top 10 rankings at schools level.

“But varsity squash is different and the maturity level and disciplined training takes over, so you don’t always have the top juniors coming through.

“For example, Kyle Schwarz achieved Madibaz No 1 and made the USSA squad without being a top junior.”

As the team’s No 1 player, Le Roux said he definitely tried to “lead by example”.

“It’s the best way to influence younger students,” he said. “It is more challenging now with the addition of a new baby, but rewarding seeing people grow in their sport.

“Seeing them wanting to be the best they can be while continuing with varsity and their futures is very encouraging.”

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Lockdown lessons to be learnt, says Madibaz athletics manager

Madibaz Sport athletics manager Nellis Bothma has urged student-athletes to take what positive lessons they can from the enforced lockdown period caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Like many sports codes worldwide, student and national meetings run by Varsity Athletics and Athletics South Africa have been put on hold as officials ponder the way forward when the lockdown ends.

Bothma is encouraging athletes under the Bestmed Madibaz banner to keep on preparing as best they can for when competition resumes again.

“I acknowledge it is not easy, but my message to our athletes is to never stop training,” he said.

“Our experienced coaches and their athletes can use initiatives to change their training methods according to each one’s situation and to be ready and in good shape after the lockdown.

“I believe this is an experience to learn more about yourself as a person and an athlete.

“It shows we must be prepared for anything at any time. It’s like training in difficult conditions because you never know what the situation might be when it is your moment to peak in a meeting.”

The Varsity Athletics programme was put on hold before the lockdown, but Bothma said nothing had been cancelled yet.

“No track and field events are officially cancelled as yet, not by Varsity Sport, USSA or ASA,” he confirmed. “All these championships are postponed at this stage.

“Varsity Athletics have made it clear that they will only take a decision once the lockdown period is over.”

He acknowledged that the postponement of events, including the Olympic Games, would have a severe effect on the student-athletes.

“Our Bestmed Madibaz athletes have trained hard for the 2020 national events and some had already qualified and were selected for representative teams,” added Bothma.

“For some of our top junior athletes it was the last time to earn a medal at SA junior and youth championships and also to be selected for a national junior team to represent South Africa.

“In respect of our senior athletes and final-year students it is a seriously tough situation as they might not be students next year or too old to either compete or to be selected for an age-group national team.

“This could mean not earning medals or breaking records, which can hamper their future in the sport.”

Meanwhile, leading Madibaz athletes such as long-distance runner Marianio Eesou and field athlete Ischke Senekal are, like many of their colleagues, making the best of the situation.

Eesou said he was fortunate to be spending the lockdown with his coach, Karen Zimmerman, in the rural Eastern Cape resort of Hogsback.

“We are at her mid-altitude training camp and the property is sizeable enough to maintain an intensive programme without violating lockdown protocols,” he said.

“We have cut a 1km route around the inner perimeter and are focusing on marathon training.

“In the current uncertain climate we are obviously not able to work towards any specific date or event and have thus set ourselves the goal of maintaining an optimal level of event preparedness until such time as there is more clarity.

“I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to Nellis Bothma, Stillwater Sports and Puma South Africa for their support during this trying time.”

Senekal, who specialises in the shot put and discus, has also adapted to the situation, using the chance to put her technique under the spotlight.

“I have my own circle at home [in Uitenhage], so I am doing my drills for shot as well as discus,” she said.

“I am focusing on the basics again, which is the most important part of the technique and will benefit me in the long run.

“My goal after lockdown is definitely to see when the SA national champs will be and then strive to do my best, as well as try to qualify for the Olympics, now in 2021.”

Madibaz await key Varsity Cup rugby decision

The FNB Madibaz rugby team will be awaiting the decision of the Varsity Cup organisers with bated breath after having a successful season halted in mid-stride by Covid-19.

The worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus and the subsequent hold on all sporting events saw the Nelson Mandela University’s Varsity Shield campaign postponed in March with two round-robin matches remaining.

Winning the title would have been important to Madibaz, but from the beginning of the season coach Jarryd Buys emphasised that their main priority was to ensure they ended on top of the combined log for the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

This is because promotion to the top-flight Varsity Cup does not depend on who wins the Shield title, but which team have the most log points over the two seasons.

Despite losing to Walter Sisulu University in February, Madibaz were in a strong position when the competition was suspended.

Their last win before the postponement came against Cape Peninsula University of Technology [32-24] and it proved to be a critical result.

That outcome placed them on an accumulated overall total of 46 points, six ahead of second-placed CPUT, who have one match left.

Even if CPUT had won their last match with a bonus point [5 points], and Madibaz had lost their final two, it would have given the Western Cape side 45 points, still a point behind their Port Elizabeth rivals on the final combined log.

However, Madibaz Sport rugby manager Ntsikelelo Ngcakana said they were not taking anything for granted.

“The current situation is something that we have to treat with sensitivity and we fully support the direction taken by Varsity Cup,” he said. “They will give us the green light once things settle down.

“I don’t believe the competition will be cancelled and there will be a resolution on the table to decide the way forward.”

In respect of the players, Ngcakana felt they could use the break to their advantage.

“In one way, it could actually be a blessing in disguise as it will allow the players to catch up with their academic commitments,” he said.

“Our message to the players is to stay fit, use the time wisely to focus on your studies, enjoy the time with your families and keep safe.

“I know our players are mature enough to know what is at stake. However, the strength and conditioning coach has sent out an individualised programme to each player and a monitoring system is in place to make sure they all adhere to the requirements.”

Ngcakana also sent a message to NMU prospective students , “All Grade 12 rugby players are encouraged to work hard on their academics and apply at Nelson Mandela University in order to be part of our journey to the greater heights,” he said.

“It is important to apply in time and anyone interested can send their contact details to Ntsikelelo.ngcakana@mandela.ac.za.”

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CAPTION: FNB Madibaz player Merlynn Pieterse goes on a run during their Varsity Shield match against Rhodes in Grahamstown earlier this year. Photo: ASEM Engage

Challenging period for Madibaz student-athletes

The South African student sporting calendar has fallen into disarray due to the coronavirus outbreak and the 21-day lockdown, but Madibaz director of sport Yoliswa Lumka says they are doing all they can to handle the situation positively.

Lumka said it was a trying time for everyone, but that they understood the seriousness of the situation and were sensitive to complying with the university and government regulations. The lockdown is due to end on April 16th.

One of the biggest impacts caused by Covid-19, she added, was the postponement of the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The dates have been moved by 12 months and they will now take place from July 23 to August 8 next year.

 “The new dates for the Olympics and Paralympics could affect the World Student Games in 2021 as they come soon after the Tokyo Games. FISU recently updated the World Student Games dates to August 18-29 next year.

“There is a possibility that some events will not be able to take place and that unfortunately will affect student-athletes who are finishing their studies this year. They will not be able to participate if events are moved to next year.”

Lumka added that various events were under discussion as to the viability of them taking place this year.

“When institutions re-open, priority will be to stabilise and catch-up on the academic programmes,” she said.

“There are ongoing talks about the CUCSA (Confederation of University and Colleges Sports Associations) games scheduled in Maseru, Lesotho from July 27 to August 3 and a decision is due later this week.

“In addition, the national executive committee of USSA (University Sport South Africa) will convene on April 20th to assess the status of these tournaments and to provide a plan on the way forward.”

The USSA winter national championships traditionally take place in the first week of July.

The Madibaz sports head said she felt for the student-athletes affected by Covid-19.

Several students were due to participate at international competitions, such as Charlize van Zyl who plays chess and Lwazi Mapitiza who plays Judo.

“With all programmes on hold it is up to the individual athletes wherever they are to keep themselves healthy and fit. Coaches and managers are in constant contact with them to discuss their training and studies.”

(ends)

CAPTION: Madibaz director of sport Yoliswa Lumka says they are doing all they can to make the best of the challenging situation created by Covid-19. Photo: Brittany Blaauw