John Kuhn claimed the Madibaz Open men's squash title at his first attempt when he defeated Rudi van Niekerk in a titanic final at the Nelson Mandela University south campus in Port Elizabeth on Sunday. Originally from Bloemfontein, the talented lefthander, who is now studying at the Mandela University campus in George, sealed the deal on his fourth match point, finally edging his Port Elizabeth rival 13-11 in the fifth game of the tournament decider. The women's final was equally well contested, with Jacqui Ryder putting up a terrific performance against tournament favourite Lizelle Muller before finally going down 3-2. After losing the first game in the men's final, Kuhn levelled the match in a tightly-fought second game and then went ahead 2-1. However, Van Niekerk, who had lost the previous two finals against Gary Wheadon, was not ready to give up. He charged back to make it 2-2 and the pair then became involved in a furious struggle for supremacy in the decider. In the end, using his relentless retrieving ability to keep the pressure on his opponent, Kuhn held two match points at 10-8. But Van Niekerk refused to go away. He fought back to 10-10 and then saved a third match point at 11-10 before Kuhn finally finished it off 13-11. Ryder and Muller have had some serious battles in past tournaments, but this was one of the most fiercely fought as the former did everything she could to upset her top-ranked opponent. Down 2-1, Ryder showed her fine shot-making ability and determination to level at 2-2. The final game was marked by an unfortunate collision between the two players in the first point, which led to an injury time-out. When they returned, it was Muller who was finally able to establish her superiority by taking the decider 11-4. Tournament director Jason le Roux said it was another "fantastic event with really good competition". "We were really happy with the way things went and there were a lot of closely contested . . .
Defending champion Kesa Molotsane took charge of the race with just under three kilometres left to continue her domination of the SPAR Women's 10km Challenge in Port Elizabeth today. After winning the opening event in Cape Town in March, the KPMG runner surged across the finish line in a time of 33:46 at Pollok Beach in Summerstrand to win her second consecutive PE title. She was followed home by Glenrose Xaba (Boxer) in 34:01, with Zimbabwean Patience Murowe (Nedbank) filling third place in 34:16. Having entered the Women's Challenge for the first time last year, today's victory puts Molotsane in pole position to win the overall Grand Prix Series title for the second time. She acknowledged that it was early days and there was still a lot of work to be done as she assessed her programme for the rest of the year. "I am hoping to qualify for the 5 000 metres at the African Championships in August, so there is quite a lot of planning to be done still," she said. The Bloemfontein runner has been battling with illness since the Cape Town event and added that some personal issues had almost derailed her plans for the PE event. "The plan I had for the race did not materialise and that's what happens sometimes," she said. "But I was happy with the way it worked out in the end." With the Boxer team, featuring Xaba, well placed early in the race, Molotsane said she expected them to break away at some stage. "When I saw that wasn't happening I decided to go in front just past the 7km mark and managed to get ahead and hold that until the finish." At the media conference, Xaba said she had been suffering with a hamstring problem which hampered her pace towards the end, but was happy to settle for second place after achieving the same position in Cape Town. Thousands of runners flooded the start venue adjacent to the Summerstrand Surf Lifesaving Club for the 10km race and the equally popular 5km event, which got under way at 8am. The races took . . .
Bloemfontein runner Kesa Molotsane has been setting the pace in the SPAR Women's 10km Challenge, but she knows she will face a serious test when she defends her title in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. Molotsane, who runs for KPMG, won the opening race in Cape Town in March, getting her campaign for a second overall win in the Grand Prix Series off to the perfect start. She will be among thousands of women who will descend on the PE beachfront at Pollok Beach for the 25th anniversary of the country's most beautiful road race. The 10km event gets under way at 7am, while the popular 5km race starts an hour later. Although winning in Cape Town, Molotsane said she had been suffering with flu after returning from the African Cross-Country Championships in Algeria just before the first SPAR race. "This has affected my training to a certain extent, but I am slowly but surely getting back to normal," she said this week. "I am not counting my chickens before they hatch and am just staying positive, not worrying too much about what might or might not happen." She added that she knew she would be up against strong opposition because of the calibre of women runners in the country. "It's very difficult because there are so many talented ladies out there. Every race has its own challenge and anyone can win. "I believe the current group of runners are the best South Africa has ever had and we can be proud of the level of competition in the country." Molotsane finished ahead of Glenrose Xaba in Cape Town, with Irvette van Zyl, who was six months pregnant at the time, in third place. With competitors such as Rhudo Mhonderwe, Zintle Xiniwe and Cherise Sims also in the mix, the defending champ knows the pressure will be intense on the fast PE course. Competing for the first time in PE last year, Molotsane said she had not had much time to assess the route, but was looking forward to racing along the coast. "Everything happened so fast on the day that . . .
A new men's champion will be crowned in the Madibaz Open squash tournament when the annual championship takes place in Port Elizabeth from tomorrow to Sunday. Held at the Nelson Mandela University's south campus, another strong entry has been lined up for this annual event which has been running since 2012. However, for the first time since then champion Gary Wheadon, who is based in Cape Town, will not be back to defend a title he has won for the past six years. Ranked five in South Africa, Wheadon has been a loyal supporter of events in Eastern Province. Besides the Madibaz Open, he has won tournaments at Rhodes and Londt Park on multiple occasions. He is not available to play this weekend because the dates clash with a tournament in his native province of KwaZulu-Natal. "I am sorry that I won't be there to defend my title but unfortunately I am committed to a tournament in Durban," said Wheadon. "I certainly hope to be back next year to aim for another title." While his absence does rob the tournament of one if its star players, tournament director Jason le Roux said they had still been able to attract a quality line-up to contest this year's edition. "Even though Gary cannot be here, we have a number of top local players in the field and I am confident we will again have very good competition in the men's A section," he said. "Top Port Elizabeth player Rudi van Niekerk will be a strong contender and there will be good competition from John Kuhn, ranked 26 in the country. "He played for Free State in the Jarvis Cup interprovincial A section and is now studying at the Mandela University George campus." Van Niekerk, who plays for SA Country Districts provincially but lives in PE, reached the past two finals, but went down both times to Wheadon. Ranked No 15 in the country, he is sure to be the favourite going into the event, which will include a number of provincial contenders. Le Roux added that the leading Madibaz players . . .
Despite a relatively inexperienced line-up, Madibaz men's coach Cheslyn Gie believes his youthful squad have a wonderful opportunity to showcase their talent when the Varsity Hockey tournament kicks off on Friday. The competition, with pool matches concentrated over two weekends, will start at Wits in Johannesburg. Four rounds will be played from Friday to Monday. The men's version was last held in 2016 and the Nelson Mandela University squad have lost a number of key players, including Ignatius Malgraff, Cerezo Comerasamy and Chad Cairncross. Nonetheless, thanks to the young talent emerging from Eastern Cape schools, Gie said he was positive about the situation. "This is a huge opportunity for some of the first years at Nelson Mandela University to show their ability," he said. "I am looking forward to seeing youngsters like Jared de Kock, Christopher Wynford, José Smith (Grey High), Joshua Engole, Brodie Fanoe (Selborne) and Jacque Potgieter and Jason McGillivray (Pearson) provide an example of the strength of our local schools talent." The Madibaz mentor said they had set themselves the target of finishing in the top four and had been preparing hard for this event since November. "The players have had off-season training programmes to keep fit. "Since the university reopened [in February], we have worked hard and the squad have had two gym sessions and two turf sessions on a weekly basis. "We also played several warm-up games against our B squad and the Pearson first team and have developed our playing pattern in two Premier league matches." He added that they drew their first Premier league match against Madibaz B 3-3, but defeated Lakeside Cavaliers 6-3 the following day. This was followed by a training camp over the long weekend where they developed "a few more new concepts and worked on our playing shape". One of the specific strategies Madibaz had focused on was to work on their counter-attacks, said Gie. "The power . . .
Hundreds of young girls did their bit for the environment when they took part in the SPAR Little Ladies' Race at Pollok Beach in Port Elizabeth on Workers' Day. The sixth edition of the 2.5km event, which serves as a prelude to Saturday's SPAR Women's Challenge, raised money and awareness for SPAR's Plastic Bag Campaign. "It is a special event that is unique to the Eastern Cape," said Alan Stapleton, SPAR Eastern Cape's sponsorship and events manager. "It celebrates the beautiful spontaneity and youthful exuberance of young women in our region and is the perfect curtain-raiser for the feature event." Stapleton said he felt the race, which attracted approximately 750 girls aged 9 and under, would continue to grow as it presented an ideal opportunity for moms and daughters to bond. "It stimulates camaraderie while offering the opportunity to exercise, enjoy the entertainment and win prizes. It is something special a little girl can do with her mom. "It is a lovely feel-good event with much bonding and a great way for SPAR to give back to the community." The winner, nine-year-old Jenna Coetzee from Collegiate Junior School for Girls, said she took part purely for the enjoyment. "It was quite short for me, but great fun," she said after completing the distance in under 10 minutes. "I love running and the competition was good as well." Lethabo Mashiane, 8, travelled all the way from Johannesburg - where she attends Montessori School - to take part. "It was my first time doing it and I did need some help, but I learnt a lot and I got the opportunity to get fit. It was good fun." Kaylyn Walters from Summerwood Primary echoed her sentiments. "It is super fun when all of us girls can race together," said the seven-year-old. "My teacher gave me a letter to do the race and I decided I wanted to do it." Seven-year-old Collegiate pupil Tiamo Monakali said she enjoyed the race as it was "fun to run". Five mother-and-daughter hampers and . . .
Started as an experiment six years ago, the SPAR Little Ladies race has become an integral part of the Women's 10km Challenge in Port Elizabeth and is again set to attract a big entry. This year's event takes place on Tuesday (May 1) from the grass area at Pollok Beach in Summerstrand, giving the younger generation a chance to show their paces. It will act as a curtain-raiser to the biggest road race in the city, with thousands of women, plus a few men in drag, preparing to tackle the 10km and 5km events on Saturday, May 5. The idea behind the 2.5km challenge along PE's iconic beachfront is to cater for children nine years and under who are not eligible for the main events. Each child must be accompanied by a female guardian, who will not be part of the race. SPAR Eastern Cape advertising manager Roseann Shadrach said it was an attempt to add value to the overall offering, providing a chance for the children to experience the fun of the event. "We promote healthy living under our brand and we believe that encouraging young girls to start getting active at this age is very important," she said. "As much as it is a curtain-raiser to the Women's Challenge, it is also a chance to educate them on the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle." From a long-term point of view, Shadrach said they hoped the little ladies would eventually graduate to the longer events once they had reached the minimum age. "This has always been such a popular event and it's not something we advertise. It has grown exponentially and has become a very important event on our calendar." She added that it was a perfect opportunity for mothers and young daughters to bond in a friendly environment while learning about the importance of exercise. The young competitors will also be informed about the environmental drive launched by SPAR EC earlier this month. This started with the Plastic Bag campaign and will continue next week when runners will be encouraged to . . .
As two-time defending champions, the University of Johannesburg men's team know the pressure will be on them when they begin their campaign in the Varsity Hockey tournament next weekend. UJ hockey manager Elize le Roux said they would not be getting ahead of themselves and would focus on each game as it happened. After the women held centre stage in 2017, the men's version of the competition will take place this year, beginning with a round of four matches at Wits in Johannesburg from May 4 to 7. UJ have lost a number of experienced players, including Gareth Heyns, Brynn Cleak and Taylor Dart, from the winning team of 2016 and have entered a rebuilding phase. Le Roux said several players had graduated or were past the eligible age of 25, but that the youngsters available added a fresh element to the squad. "We are taking a new view into this tournament as we have a young team during this rebuilding period," she said. "Naturally, we would love to defend the title, but we are taking it game by game at this stage." As the title-holders, she added that there would always be pressure to perform, but they were trying keep the players focused on their plan rather than be influenced by any external expectations. Under coach Garreth Ewing, the squad have been training for over two months in their preparations. "Holidays and league fixtures have interrupted a couple of sessions, but we have also used league as part of our preparation," said Le Roux. "We have a mini camp planned this long weekend ahead of the competition next week." As usual in varsity events of this nature there are a number of innovations which will test the teams. "I think the men like the format. It gives running hockey a chance to be seen and the men play a faster-paced game in general. "The power play and the goals systems mean you face the challenge of managing each game in a different way, according to the opposition." The power-play rule can be taken by one . . .
SOUTH Africa U23 champion Julian Jessop continued his dream month when he beat off the challenge of Tyronne White in a dash for the line at the 60km mountain bike race at the Husqvarna Classic Mid-Illovo MTB Challenge and Trail Run on Sunday. The 20-year-old Jessop - who is coming off a dream 12th position finish at the recent Absa Cape Epic and so claimed the prestigious African Jersey title with Matthys Beukes - and White approached the finish together. However the young PYGA Eurosteel rider had too much firepower for his more experienced challenger and powered across to line to win in a time of 2:32:08, two seconds ahead of White. Quattro ROAG Series leader Andrew Johnson claimed third position just 29-seconds further back and his third position in Sunday's second leg of the series, combined with his win in the opening leg at Wartburg in February, ensures the Ballito resident holds top spot in the race for South Africa's richest prize for a mountain bike series. David Low and Brennan Anderson rounded out the top five. In the women's 60km race, Christie Leigh Hearder made her first appearance at a Quattro ROAG Series event of the year and notched up a convincing five-minute win to put the pressure on series leader Andrea de Boer. De Boer was second and keeps a firm grasp on the series lead going into the third leg at Karkloof in May, but will be aware that Hearder is lurking. One of the most intriguing dices of the day was the women's 40km Safire MTB that saw matric pupilÂ Tiffany Keep edge out Frances Janse van Rensburg by two minutes, while schoolboy Travis Stedman was clear winner in the men's 40km race. In the trail runs, Derek Wasserfall cruised to victory with Thierry Pletinckx just over two minutes off the pace in the 16km Farmers Agri-Care race while Mark Mackenzie was third. Mackenzie's third, when combined with his third position in the opening leg, is enough to move him to the top of the standings in the Quattro ROAG Series. Sarah . . .
Kyle Symons and Rose Bailey took the honours when the Madibaz MTB XCO Series made a flying start with the opening Whip Snake leg in George at the weekend. Held on the Nelson Mandela University campus, race director Jan Venter said they were very happy with the outcome as the series entered its third year. Having started in 2016, the event, which is aimed at promoting mountain-biking in the region with an emphasis on developing cross-country skills, has grown rapidly in popularity. Riding in the elite men's category, Symons finished the five-lap course in 1:24:29, beating Hayden and Luke Cocksedge to the finishing line. Bailey completed the women's four-lap course in 1:18:07, ahead of Anuschke Smith. The pair now have the inside lane in the annual competition as points are added up over the four legs to decide the overall winners. With the weather showing a kind face to the cyclists, Venter said there was "a great turnout and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves". Adding lustre to the occasion were Ascendis Health riders Robyn de Groot and Sabine Spitz, who were the runners-up in last month's Cape Epic. However, they took on a largely ambassadorial role during the race. "They asked to be promotional riders rather than take up podium positions," said Venter. "They were there to show their support to the series but did not want to mess up the log-points for the local riders. "Still, having them there was great and Rose, who raced to keep up with them, certainly had her hands full. She did very well." He added that the large number of adult riders who attended the event, which caters for cyclists of all ages, added a good deal of spirit to the occasion. "Then there are the development riders and it really was good to see them getting better with each event. "A competitor such as Ian Jantjies from the Knysna Sport Academy is certainly a rider to watch in the future." Venter said the competition for overall honours would be keen, . . .