The University of Johannesburg men’s basketball team ended a long wait for success when they took the honours at the University Sport South Africa tournament in Cape Town last week.
Played at UCT from July 1 to 5, UJ defeated University of KwaZulu-Natal 69-41 in the final to regain the title they last won in 2009. The women’s team finished sixth in their section.
For head coach Mandla Ngema it was a moment to savour after the men had been in contention for the past nine years only to slip up in the semifinals each time.
“This was a great outcome for us and very exciting in the end,” said Ngema.
“I believe the semifinal against Wits was the major breakthrough for us, because that victory gave us the confidence to go on to win the tournament.”
He added that going into the week they had targeted making the semifinals.
“We thought we could achieve that and then would reassess the situation. We felt we may face Wits in the semis and knew if we could get past them we had a great chance of winning the title.”
Ngema felt the triumph was just reward for the hard work they had put in, while always believing they had the potential to go all the way.
“I think we were often unlucky in the semifinals in previous tournaments, but the players and the coaches have continued to put in a lot of effort to reach the ultimate goal.
“We work as hard as any team, perhaps harder than many of them, and all that input has now come to fruition.”
He added that the team had been boosted by the backing of UJ alumni.
“Having waited so long for this success there was a lot of support from them and this meant a lot to the team.”
Further recognition came for the UJ teams when two men and two women were chosen for the USSA teams at the conclusion of the week. The players are Skhumbuzo Mthembo and Kwazi Gumede (men) and Lufuno Mutungutungu and Pretty Murali (women).
Ngema said they would now regroup and resume their training for the Varsity Basketball competition that takes place at Wits in Johannesburg in October.