REPEAT FINALS A POSSIBILITY AT SOWETO OPEN

Johannesburg, South Africa - There is a theoretical possibility that this years’ Soweto Open – in both the men’s and the women’s events – could produce the same finals as last year as all four protagonists will be returning to the Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium for this year’s tournaments to be played from April 11 to 16.
Dustin Brown, who now plays out of Germany, defeated South Africa’s Izak van der Merwe in last year’s final but the South African avenged that loss at the SA Tennis Open at Montecasino earlier this year.
In the women’s final unseeded Nina Bratchikova of Russia got the better of Thailand’s veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn. They both return but this time the Russian is likely to be seeded.
Rik de Voest (ranked No 147) will join Van der Merwe (No 148) as the only other South Africans directly in the main draw but that number is likely to increase following the qualification draw and the announcement of the wild cards. In addition, Raven Klaasen is the first alternate so in the event somebody drops out of the main draw, Klaasen will get that spot.
However, there is a former South African in the draw and that is Australian Matthew Ebden. The former Durbanite represented South Africa at the 1999 Nike Junior Tour International Finals in Barcelona as a 12-year-old, which saw Kevin Anderson as the under-14 representative. The tournament was won by a 13-year-old Rafael Nadal.
Ebden has performed reasonably well in Australia and is currently ranked No 195.
Based on their current rankings Brown would be the top seed with left-hander Gilles Muller of Luxembourg at No 2. One of Muller’s achievements was putting Nadal out of Wimbledon in the Spaniard’s first appearance in the London Grand Slam.
There are no South Africans directly into the main draw of the women’s tournament but again, that will no doubt change once the wild cards are announced by The South African tennis Association. Top seed for the women’s event is likely to be Italy’s Alberta Brianti, who is currently ranked at No 95, but has been as high as No 67. Tanasugarn is placed to be the No 2 seed with Britain’s Anne Keothavong at 3.
An interesting entry is Anne Kremer of Luxembourg, who was ranked as high as No 18 in July 2002. She is now 35 years old and is on the comeback trail. She is currently ranked at No 145.
“If one considers that many of these players were in action at the SA Tennis Open in February one has to say this is a pretty decent field for a challenger event,” said Tournament Director Gavin Crookes. “There was some wonderful tennis at Montecasino, where Izak reached the semifinals, and I expect the same the level in Soweto. The only difference is that we also have some wonderful women’s tennis to even further boost the occasion.” Crookes added.


JEANNIE D TO ROCK PE

Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa - People taking part in the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge at King’s Beach on May 7 have a real treat in store – dynamic Top Billing presenter Jeannie D will be the MC, encouraging the runners and calling them across the finish line.

Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa – The crowd at the 2010 Nelson Mandela Bay SPAR Women’s Challenge a

Picture by: Reg Caldecott

Jeannie D always knew that she wanted a career as a performer, and honed her vocal and acting skills at the National School of the Arts. She started her career in radio, where after a remarkably short apprenticeship she landed one of the top shows on Good Hope FM, as presenter of the Jeannie D show from six to ten every week night.

From radio, Jeannie D moved on to television, where she presents the style and décor features on the lifestyle show, Top Billing. More recently, she also became a co-presenter of sister show Top Travel. Through her work, she has travelled to exotic places, met people from all walks of life, and had experiences most of us just dream of.

Among other things, Jeannie D has been voted South Africa’s sexiest celebrity, most popular female celebrity and best-dressed presenter.

Challenge goers will also be entertained by one of Port Elizabeth’s most popular bands, Escape, which will have entrants and their families tapping their feet and clicking their fingers. The fresh-faced five are well known for their musical tributes to Westlife and Robbie Williams. They are remarkably versatile, moving seamlessly from the slick 1950s Sha Na Na vocals and choreography to the modern music of the Black Eyed Peas.

So what are you waiting for – start training now for the SPAR Challenge, so that you can really enjoy some of South Africa’s top talent after the race. Walkers are welcome, and for the less energetic, there is always the 5km Fun Run.

Entry forms are available from all SPAR, KWIKSPAR and SUPERSPAR stores or online at www.spar.co.za


DUNLOP JOINS FORCES WITH KEYHEALTH IN BOOST FOR JUNIOR TENNIS DEVELOPMENT

DUNLOP TO SPONSOR GAUTENG NORTH PREMIER JUNIOR EVENT

Tshwane, South Africa – During the school holidays top junior tennis players from around the country will be making their way to Tshwane to kick off the April leg of the South African junior circuit. The Dunlop Super 7 hosted by Gauteng North will play host to over 450 players from 30 March to 4 April.
The annual tournament forms part of the KeyHealth series which comprises of a few select tournament played throughout the year at different venues across the country. A strong line-up of players have confirmed their entries for the 2011 event.
Boys and girls in the under 12, 14, 16 and open age categories, will compete in the Platinum and Gold draws at different tennis clubs throughout Tshwane as well as at Gauteng North Tennis headquarters, Groenkloof Stadium. Vanessa Jooste, Tournament Director of the event, said that the event is always a highlight in the Gauteng North Calendar. “We always enjoy hosting players from all provinces and together with our sponsors Dunlop and Keyhealth we are sure this year will be the best event yet with a record entry,” said Jooste.
Dunlop Brand Manager, Mark Ridl said that Dunlop was proud to be involved with tournaments like the Gauteng North event; “We are delighted to be associated with these levels of events across the country and as one of the world’s leading brands, we continue to put our full commitment into the development of tennis in our country, especially at a grassroots level,” Ridl said.
The under 12 age groups at Lynnwood Tennis club, under 14 age groups will be played at Rietondale Tennis Club, the under 16 age groups will play at the Groenkloof Tennis Stadium and the open age group will play at Belgrave Tennis club.
Other Venues include Menlo Park Tennis club, Afrikaans Seuns Hoërskool and Afrikaans Meisies Hoërskool.


TENNIS FAMILY UNITES TO RAISE FUNDS FOR JAPAN DISASTER RELIEF

Miami, Florida - Earlier this evening at the Sony Ericsson Open, the tennis family came together for a special fundraising event for the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster, dubbed “Tennis for Japan”, featuring the stars of the WTA and the ATP World Tour. Kim Clijsters, Robin Soderling, Vera Zvonareva, and many others, including Japan’s KeiNishikori, Kimiko Date-Krumm, and Ayumi Morita, walked through the stands of the StadiumCourt to collect donations from fans and encouraged the public to show support for the victims. In total, thanks to contributions from the WTA, ATP World Tour, the Grand Slams (Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open), Sony Ericsson, ITF, IMG, SAP, Itaú, FILA, adidas and Lagardère, and the fans, the evening raised over $300,000 which will be donated to the Red Cross and other relief organizations to aid the victims of the disaster.

Keep reading →


TOP PLAYERS TO COMPETE IN WHEELCHAIR TENNIS WORLD TEAM CUP

Pretoria, South Africa – The 27th edition of the Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup promises to be an exciting event with nine of the top 10 men and eight of the top 10 women players coming to South African to take part.
Tournament Director Holger Losch said South Africa is privileged to host a tournament with this quality of player. “These are the best players in the world,” said Losch. “It is very rare to get all these players at one event and the public will be able to watch wheelchair tennis at its finest.”
Defending champions Sweden in the Men’s World Group I Division, who upset top seeds The Netherlands in last year’s final, will be back to try and retain their title. They will be led by world No 2 Stefan Olsson. The 23-year-old made it to the semifinals of the Australian Open and the finals of the 2010 French Open where he lost to world No 1 Shingo Junieda of Japan 4-6 0-6. Olsson will be backed up by quality doubles specialists Dan Wallin and Niclas Rodhborn, who made the difference in winning last year’s event.
Challenging Sweden for the cup will be the experienced Dutch team, who boast three players in the top 10, including the flamboyant Robin Ammerlaan - a former world No 1 - and France, led by world No 3 Stephane Houdet.
The world group division I, made up of 16 countries, will compete in a knockout tournament. The countries competing are Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Korea, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, Sweden and Thailand.
Favourites in the women’s division are defending champions The Netherlands, who will be sending their best team, led by world renown No 1 Ester Vergeer. The US Open and Australian Open champion will be supported by world No 3 Sharon Walraven, No 4 Aniek van Koot and No 8 Marjolein Buis.
Although The Netherlands are firm favourites they will need to keep an eye out for Great Britain, who have two top 10 players, namely Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley. Shuker, who has recently beaten two of the Dutch top 10 players, will be confident Great Britain can cause a few upsets during the tournament.
The women’s division, which will be played in the same format as the men’s, will also comprise 16 countries, namely Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Great Britain, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand and The United States of America.
Local team South Africa will look to upset some of the top countries in the women’s division, led by Kgothatso Montjane, currently ranked 17th in the world.
Montjane said the team were optimistic about their chances going into the tournament. “We are very excited to be playing the World Team Cup in our own backyard and the girls will give their all to make South Africa proud and uplift Wheelchair Tennis in the country,” Montjane said.
The event takes place at the University of Pretoria Sports grounds from 24 April to 1 May.


JEFF COETZEE TIES THE KNOT

South African pro tennis and Davis Cup star, Jeff Coetzee was married this past weekend to his long-time sweetheart Mauricia Leukes in Stellenbosch. The bride was dressed in a Jenni Button creation whilst Jeff Coetzee’s outfit was created by emerging designer Archibald Monyepaoa of Monarchy Couture of Pretoria. The exclusive celebrations were enjoyed at Nelson Creek Wine Estate outside Paarl by family, close friends and a host of sporting stars and administrators from around the world.
Photo by: Riaan Conradie

Forming a guard of honour, as the couple left the church, were juniors from the Anyone for Tennis Strand/Somerset West group, of which Jeff Coetzee is the ambassador.
Photo by: Riaan Conradie


PREPARE FOR THE FRIENDLIEST RACE OF THE YEAR

Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa - The friendly atmosphere in the Friendly City will be very much in evidence when thousands of women gather at King’s Beach on Saturday May 7 for the annual SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge and 5km Fun Run.

The SPAR Women’s Challenge – one of five races run at centres around the country – is one of the highlights of PE’s social calendar. It is also popular with runners from all over South Africa, because the course is one of the most scenic and most user-friendly of all the courses and because of the great vibe at the finish.

Adding to the vibe this year will be Top Billing presenter Jeannie D, who will be the MC at the race, as well as local boy band, Escape, who will have everyone clicking their fingers, tapping their toes and rocking to their beat.

Jeannie D is well known for her support for campaigns opposing rape and the abuse of women, so it is only fitting that Yokhuselo Haven, which helps abused women and children make a new life for themselves, is once again the race’s designated charity.

Many of South Africa’s elite runners, like Irvette van Blerk, Rene Kalmer, Zintle Xiniwe and Nandipha Dywili will take part in the race. In addition to vying for top honours, they will also be trying to earn points for the SPAR Grand Prix, now in its fifth year. The winner of the Grand Prix, after all five Challenge races have been completed, will pocket a handsome R60 000, with the runner-up taking home R30 000. The first 20 on the leaderboard all win cash prizes.
Grand Prix points are earned in three ways:
Overall position in the race
Position in age categories
Completing the race in a time faster than the winning time in the previous year.

The format of the Grand Prix competition means that age category runners can compete on equal terms with senior runners. For instance, in 2010, Dywili won the junior category, and finished in fifth position on the Grand Prix leaderboard, aided by the additional points she earned from winning junior category races.

While competition at the top end of the race is fierce, the race is also all about the thousands of women and girls who take part just for the fun of it. Many take up road-running more seriously after taking part in the Challenge, but for many others it is a once a year event that they look forward to. The sound of chattering and laughter is heard all around as women meet up with old friends and make new ones.
Walkers are also welcome in the challenge – in fact, the vast majority of contestants walk for at least part of the race. The 5km Fun Run, which is open to females over the age of nine, is also very popular.

SPAR Eastern Cape Marketing Manager Martin Webber is happy to be hosting the race again this year; “2011 will be our 18th year of staging the SPAR Women’s 10km challenge and 5km Fun run. This is our major sponsorship event of each year and from humble beginnings has now grown to over 9000 participants on the day. SPAR remains committed to making a contribution to the community and we look forward to the donation we’ll be giving to this year’s beneficiary, Yokhuselo Haven. We are planning for another fantastic day on Saturday 7th May and therefore call on all Eastern Cape patrons to come down to the Kings Beach venue and be a part of it. “

The SPAR Challenge races have become well known for their iconic t-shirts, with the first 10 000 to enter receiving a free race t-shirt. There are also awesome prizes, including a spot prize of groceries for a year, in the form of SPAR vouchers worth R12 000, as well as a computer and software for the school with the most entries.

So what are you waiting for? Enter now and get ready to enjoy the friendliest day of the year in the most beautiful race. Entry forms are available from all SPAR, KwikSPAR and SuperSPAR stores, or online at www.spar.co.za or www.entrytime.com


SIX CHANGES TO SPAR SOUTH AFRICAN SQUAD FOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Johannesburg, South Africa –There are six changes to the SPAR South African squad selected for the World Netball Championships in Singapore in July this year.

The squad was selected after an intensive training camp at the Pretoria University’s High Performance Centre.

The chosen SPAR South Africa squad to play in the World Netball Championships in Singapore in July, during a training camp at the Pretoria HPC on 21 March 2011.
Picture by: Sean O’Beirne

Some of the selected squad in action at a training camp at the Pretoria University HPC this past weekend.
Picture by: Sean O’Beirne

Two of the most experienced players, Amanda Mynhardt and Nthabiseng Moabi were named captain and vice-captain. Mynhardt was happy with her new position and said that the vibe in the new team was very positive; “At this stage the vibe in the team is great, we all have one common goal, which is to make it into the top four countries in the world. The energy in the team is upbeat, we are training hard, and know that there is still a lot of hard work ahead but we are ready.”

However, doing well at the world champs is about more than ranking to the newly appointed captain, and whilst she acknowledges the importance of moving up in the ranks, Mynhardt is also focused on bettering the image of netball in South Africa. “We know that if we have the right attitude it will get us into the right place. We all want to lift the image of netball in the country and know that the only way to do this is to perform at the world champs.”

Appointed head coach Elize Kotze is also very positive about the chosen squad; “Being the national coach of these fine players and great country is not only an honour but the biggest challenge and responsibility I have ever faced. The first task that we were successful in carrying out , was to make the players realise what is required to be a top national athlete, mentally and physically.”

Two players that have bore the brunt of this are former captain and vice captain Liezel Wium and Precious Mthembu who are both suffering from injury. Despite performing well in trials Wium was not approved a space in the squad by the team doctor.

President of Netball South Africa, Mimi Mthethwa says that both players are in rehabilitation. “The fact that two of our top players are not in the team says a lot for our selectors, we are aware that we need the best of the best in order to perform at the world champs in July. However, we have many big events on our netball calendar this year, so the squad is aware that this is not set in stone. Our players need to work hard and continue to outdo themselves in order to remain in the squad.”

Kotze confirmed that “the coaches and management as well as 15 players are 100% committed to the challenges and hard work we will be facing on our way to the world champs. We want to make South-Africa proud and earn (and restore) the recognition, respect and profile netball deserves.”

SPAR National Squad:
Claudia Basson; Christina Anna Bootha; Maryka Holtzhausen; Amanda Mynhardt (captain); Vanes- Mari Du Toit; Zukelwa Cwaba; Zanele Mdodana; Erin Burger; Nokuthula Qegu; Nthabiseng Moabi (vice captain); Tsakane Mbewe; Leigh- Ann Zackey; Nosiphiwo Goda; Karla Mostert; Carine Terblanche.


NETBALL SOUTH AFRICA SAYS FAREWELL TO LOYAL FANS

Boksburg, South Africa - Netball South Africa (NSA) say farewell to one of their most ardent fans, former Sports and Recreation Minister, the Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile, at a banquet in Boksburg tonight. The banquet is being held during a training camp for the SPAR National Netball Team ahead of the World Netball Championships in Singapore in July.

NSA President Mimi Mthethwa expressed gratitude for Stofile’s immense contribution to the development of netball in South Africa;“Of note is his contribution in getting different government Ministers who previously were never exposed to netball, to understand the sport and its challenges and to actually take time off to come and watch important international netball competitions,” said Mthethwa. “The highlight of his achievements in this regard is definitely the unforgettable moment when the State President, in his State of the Nation address last year, made special mention of netball, where he applauded the commendable work done in this code in the area of administration, pledged his support for this code and further implored business to come forward and support netball.”

Mthethwa said Stofile was always there when they were involved in international competitions and he had also introduced five female ministers to the sport, and had persuaded them to commit themselves to helping netball claim its rightful position as one of the country’s top sporting codes.

Mthethwa said Stofile had been unstinting in his support for netball, and had been instrumental in assisting in the renewal of the SPAR sponsorship of netball. She also thanked Stofile’s daughters and wife, Nambitha Stofile, whom she described as netball’s number one fan. “Mama Stofile, we were strengthened in the knowledge that whenever our team participates in international and local events, you will be with us. You have played a silent but effective role in making sure that those who deserved recognition for their achievements nationally and internationally got it,” said Mthethwa.


South Africa has Revealed its Squad for the Upcoming Wheelchair Tennis ITF World Team

Wednesday, 16 March, 2010

Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA) and its presenting sponsor Airports Company South Africa, alongside the Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA), and City of Tshwane today (Wednesday, 16 March 2011) announced the team that will represent South Africa in the ITF World Team Cup. This, a first ever for South Africa and the African continent, will see the Green and Gold players take up their racquets at this the most prestigious tennis event ever staged in this country.

This the 27th ITF World Team Cup will be held at the University of Pretoria Sports Grounds from April 25, 2011 to May 1, 2011. Team South Africa will be one of 34 nations all vying for gold, and our team will compete against a pool of approximately 300 players. The tournament categories include the Men’s World Group I and World Group II, Women’s World Group, plus Quad and Junior groups. WTSA will host the best players from around the globe, including world renowned Netherland’s player Esther Vergeer, the women’s world No.1 and twice recipient of the prestigious Laureas Award for Sportsperson with a Disability.

Tournament Director, Holger Losch said, “Securing the ITF World Team Cup for South Africa is an honour and a privilege, and one that few countries outside Europe are able to boast. World Cup events appeal to the entire nation and we expect that even non-tennis enthusiasts will get involved in celebrating the game and supporting Team South Africa. We hope that by bringing this prominent tournament to the African continent, our nation will experience the incredible thrill of wheelchair tennis and watching our athletes demonstrate the power and tenacity of the human spirit.”

Being a team event means players are not collecting match points for themselves; when Team South Africa takes on a rival country, the result of the two singles matches and the deciding doubles match will count to determine which nation remains in the race for the coveted crown.

In the men’s event South Africa’s plays in the B draw where they anticipate their strongest opposition will be against Colombia - the 2010 defending champions; the favourites in women’s division are the Netherlands - also victors in 2010, and are spearheaded by World No 1 Esther Vergeer. The quads and juniors will participate in a round robin, where they will be teamed up against the top 7 nations in their divisions, including the 2010 title holders - the USA and Netherlands respectively.

Championing the cause for the South African scoreboard is a team that has been hand selected from five provinces across our country. No surprises in the line-up, the national squad is one that has spent countless hours of practice and these 10 individuals are single-minded in their pursuit of glory and hope, through winning performances, to bring honour to our country. These men and women are:
Men’s Division:
1. Sydwell Mathonsi
2. Evans Maripa
3. Marshall Marsh

Women’s Division:
1. Kgothatso Montjane
2. Celia du Toit

Quad’s Division:
1. Lucas Sithole
2. Steven Kekai
3. David Mathebula

Junior’s Division:
1. Thabang Gift Lekganyane
2. Donald Ramphadi

Team SA Manager
1. Marius Masencamp

Coaches:
1. Gerald Stoffberg – men’s division
2. Rene Plant – women’s division
3. Khotso Matshego - quad’s division
4. Craig Fairall – junior’s division

The South African squad as a whole now has one more major warm up tournament before this mega event, the Airports Company South Africa SA Open, which will be played at Sun City between April 18, 2011 and April 22, 2011


SOWETO OPEN TO SERVE UP TOP TENNIS

Each tournament will carry prize money of R700 000 and more importantly valuable world ranking points.
The event, hosted by the city of Johannesburg is becoming one of the more established tournaments on the Challenger tour and has always had an attractive field, with players like Frenchman, Fabrice Santoro and Thai, Tamarine Tanasugarn having participated in the past.
Last year Dustin Brown, who now plays out of Germany, won the men’s event, beating South Africa’s Izak van der Merwe in the final. Ironically the two met again at this year’s SA Open at Montecasino in the second round and it was Van der Merwe who came out on top on that occasion.
The women’s title went to Russia’s Nina Bratchikova who beat former world number 19, Tamarin Tanasugarn of Thailand 7-5 7-6 (7-2) in the final.
The Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Amos Masondo said that tennis is a great, exciting and a growing sport in South Africa and that to date the Soweto Open has been a resounding success.
“We, in the City of Johannesburg, are proud to be associated with this event,” said Masondo. “We are committed to the growth of sport in general and tennis in particular. We are striving to make tennis a mainstream sport in Soweto and other previously disadvantaged areas. We salute all efforts by the South African Tennis Association as well as by players, supporters and sponsors to make this dream a reality,” continued Masondo.
The men’s event is an ATP Challenger Series event while the women’s event forms part of the ITF Pro Circuit and falls under the auspices of the International Tennis Federation although for the players, it carries WTA ranking points.
Both singles draws will comprise 32 players with 24 direct entries, four qualifying spots and four wild cards. The qualifying draw also contains 32 players the qualifying tournaments will take place On Saturday April 9 and Sunday April 10.
The two doubles draws will comprise 16 teams each. The doubles finals for both men and women will be played on Friday April 15 with the singles finals taking place on Saturday April 16.
The City of Johannesburg and the South African Tennis Association announced that there will be no charge for spectators attending the Soweto Open. “With us allowing free entrance to the tournament we are looking forward to a spectacular tennis tournament this year that is well supported,” said Executive Mayor Amos Masondo
ENDS
About City of Johannesburg:
Joburg, a City where community development, personal growth and social mobility are enhanced so that challenges of poverty, vulnerability, inequality and social exclusion are fundamentally addressed. For more information on the City of Johannesburg visit www.joburg.org.za.


IT’S SPAR WOMEN’S CHALLENGE TIME AGAIN

Cape Town South Africa - Thousands of women are starting to prepare for the first SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge race of the year, in Cape Town on April 10.

The SPAR Women’s Challenge has become a major feature on the South African athletics calendar, with thousands of women competing in the five races, which are run in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. The races attract South Africa’s top women runners, who compete for a share in the SPAR Grand Prix, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year.

The Grand Prix is worth R170 000 in total, with the winner taking home R60 000. The runner up receives R30 000 and the third placed athlete R15 000. The top 10 runners in the open category and the first three in the four age categories all receive cash prizes. Grand Prix points are earned from performances in each race, with the elite runners encouraged to enter as many races as their international programmes allow. Runners finishing in the top twenty places each receive points, with the winner earning 20 points and the 20th-placed runner one point.

As a further incentive, an age category runner can also earn points by finishing in the top five places in her category. This means that age category runners can compete on equal terms with athletes at the peak of their careers. Last year, Nandipha Dywili, running as a junior, finished fifth overall, and pocketed an additional R3 000 for winning the junior category.

Bonus points are also handed out to runners who complete the race in a faster time than the winning time for the particular race in the previous year. All runners who beat the 2010 overall winning time in the relevant age category of the corresponding race in 2010 will score 5 time incentive points.

Mike Prentice, Group Marketing Executive of SPAR, said the 10km Challenge and the Grand Prix in particular were among the grocery giant’s most important sponsorships. “SPAR takes pride in rewarding our country’s top athletes for their efforts on the road through our Grand Prix Series. As much as the SPAR Challenge races are about the everyday woman, without the crème of our country’s top athletes participating, the series would not have the prestige and credibility it has in sporting circles of our country,” he said.

The athletes love the concept of the Grand Prix, and try to compete in as many of the races as possible. Rene Kalmer, who has twice won the overall prize, finishing in second position last year after being hampered by illness, is a great fan of the Grand Prix. “The money really helps, and it’s a great motivator on those cold winter mornings when you don’t want to get up and run,” she laughed.

Last year’s winner was Irvette van Blerk, who said the prize money would help her as she prepared for major international competitions. “I’m planning to go for the marathon,” she said. “I want to go to the world championships and also to the Olympic Games in London in 2012, and I think the marathon is the way to go. I know I’m young, but I’m very excited about tackling a new distance.”

But, with R60 000 on offer, Van Blerk said she would definitely be running in the SPAR Women’s Challenge again this year. Other top runners, such as Kalmer, Dywili, Thozama April, Annerien van Schalkwyk, Grace de Oliviera and Tessa Burrell are expected to compete in the five Challenge races this year.

Aleck Skhosana, Chairman of the Road Running Commission, Athletics South Africa said the SPAR Women’s Challenge races provided a platform for women to take part in an athletics event away from their male counterparts. He said the races allowed less experienced road runners to take part and simply enjoy road running while professional athletes were given an opportunity to compete in a credible platform for women of all walks of life.

“These races are critical in the building of athletics in South Africa as women from various rural and urban, economic and social backgrounds come together to participate and enjoy the races,” said Skhosana.

He urged women in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg to come together and start preparing for what were sure to be spectacular road running races this year.


NSA HAPPY WITH DRAW FOR WORLD NETBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Johannesburg, South Africa - The final 15-member squad for the World Netball Championships in Singapore in July will be selected at a training camp in Pretoria next week.

The SPAR South African team, ranked sixth in the world, has been drawn to play in Group C with fourth-ranked Jamaica, hosts Singapore (19) and neighbours Botswana (18). Coordinator of the coaching panel Elize Kotze was fairly upbeat about the draw. “It’s quite a good draw for us,” she said. “I believe a team like Jamaica is within our reach. We played Jamaica in Jamaica about a year ago, and were pretty competitive against them, and playing in Kingston is quite tough. I really believe we could take them away from home.”

It is very important for South Africa to finish on top of the group, because the team that finishes second in Group C will almost definitely come up against New Zealand – for years one of the world’s strongest netball teams – in the quarterfinals. “If we can come out on top, we will probably play Fiji (5) or Trinidad and Tobago (8) in the quarters,” Kotze said. “That would obviously be much better than coming up against the world number one so early in the knock-out stages.”

The Proteas 30-member training squad had been working hard and spirits were high. The coaches are to have said to have made it clear that anyone who wanted to go to Singapore would have to make sacrifices”. “If players can’t come to training camps, they’re out of the squad. We have to have total commitment, and we have been very pleased with the response” said Kotze. Mpumi Javu, Director Selection Netball South Africa, reiterated this; “We at Netball South Africa are happy with the character of the team. The coaching panel is working well as a collective to get the players motivated and well trained.”

Kotze stated that “Everyone wants to play for South Africa, and they have been working very hard. Some of them were only training for about two hours a day – now they are working four hours and day and more.” Javu said that shooting position was the focal point. “We cannot carry players who are not going to perform. However, we are confident that this is a hurdle we can over come before the World Netball Championships”. The shooters are involved in a very intensive shooting programme aimed at increasing their accuracy.

The Proteas will be playing a tri-nations against Botswana and Malawi in Botswana, and are determined to win that. “If we can get over the Malawi hurdle, it will give us so much confidence going into the world champs” said Kotze. South Africa have struggled against Malawi in recent years, losing to them in the last World Championships and Commonwealth Games, but the coaches are confident that the Proteas had the beating of the Malawi Queens this time. “We are also planning a series against Trinidad and Tobago in May, and we have invited England to play a series against us before the World Championships. We’re particularly keen to play England, because game time against one of the top four countries will be invaluable.”

The SPAR National Netball Team will be going into a training camp about six weeks before the start of the World Championships and will go to Singapore at the beginning of June to become acclimatised before the tournament starts. Also, there will be a high humidity training camp in Durban before departing for Singapore, so that the squad can get used to the humidity.


SA TENNIS VETS TO COMPETE FOR NATIONAL TITLES

Pretoria, South Africa – The top veteran tennis players from around South Africa will converge in Tshwane to compete in the ABSA ITF Veterans Nationals from 10 – 15 March.
Following the return of South Africa’s top veteran players from Christchurch in New Zealand, where they were competing in the international ITF Senior World Championships, the focus now lies on the local tour, where 386 players representing 14 provinces, will strive to be South Africa’s national champion in their respective age groups.
The 30 to 50+ age groups will be playing at the Groenkloof Tennis Stadium whilst the 55 to 85+ age groups will play at the Rietondale Tennis Club where mens and womens will play in a compass draw whilst mixed doubles will be run on a straight knock out draw.
New into the veteran’s category will be local favourites Dawie Eybers and WP Meyer in the mens 30+ age group, joined by Paul Anderson and Russel Schluter from Gauteng Central, who were all top junior players in their own rights.
In the over 45 mens tournaments, all eyes will be on Gustav Fichardt and Giullaume Oberholster both of Free State, with talented Darryl Weisz, from Gauteng Central, who is making his first veteran appearance, as their biggest challenge.
In the womens over 45’s event Gauteng North look favourites to take honours, with Else Opperman, Helena Mowatt and Heather Grobler heading the entry list.
Tournament Director, Lorna Krog said that this year’s entry was one of the strongest in the tournaments history and they expected top class tennis throughout the event. “It is good to have our players back safely in South Africa after the devastating earthquake in New Zealand, which disrupted their international tournament they were playing in Christchurch. My hat goes off to the players for regrouping so quickly and entering our nationals.” Said Krog.


SA TO FACE THE NETHERLANDS IN HOME DAVIS CUP TIE

Johannesburg, South Africa - The South African team are just one Davis Cup win away playing for a place in the World Group of the Competition.
All they will have to do is set aside a Dutch team in a Euro/Africa Zone Group 1 encounter from July 8 to 10. South Africa had a bye in the first round and were drawn to play the winners of Ukraine and The Netherlands. The Netherlands defeated Ukraine 3-2 in Kharkiv, sneaking home when Robin Haase won a five-set thriller against Illya Marchenko.
A victory against Holland will put the SA Davis team into the World Group Playoffs from September 16 to 18 where they will face one of the losing teams from the first round of the World Group.
South Africa have a very good record against the Dutch but they have not played since the country’s readmission to the competition in 1992. However, the last time The Netherlands defeated South Africa was in 1920. In six subsequent ties, South Africa was victorious, the last win going back to May 1967.
The current Dutch team is headed up by Theo de Bakker and Robin Haase, ranked 53 and 56 respectively. They are backed up by Jesse Huta Galung (113), Igor Sijsling (156) and Thomas Schoorel (167).
Captain John-Laffnie de Jager’s team is spearheaded up by recent SA Open champion Kevin Anderson, now ranked 40 in the world, Izak van der Merwe (150) and Rik de Voest (162).
Announcement on the venue for this important tie will be made soon.


WHEELCHAIR TENNIS WORLD TEAM CUP FOR SOUTH AFRICA

There will be another sporting first for South Africa in April when the country will become the first African nation to host the wheelchair tennis World Team Cup. The 27th edition of the illustrious competition, which falls under the auspices of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), will be played at the University of Pretoria from 25 April until 1 May.
“This is the ITF’s flagship wheelchair tennis team event and it is an honour for us to be given the rights to host it,” said Tournament Director Holger Losch of Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA).
“With all the recent positive publicity, South Africa has become a popular destination and we are expecting the best players in the world to come to this tournament.”

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