Johannesburg, South Africa - South Africa’s top woman roadrunners have a lot to look forward to this year, with massive increases in the prize money for the SPAR Women’s 10km Challenge Grand Prix series.

Winner of the 2014 SPAR Grand Prix, Daina-Lebo Phalula of Soweto with her trophy at the 2014 SPAR Grand Prix Awards at the Wanderers Club in Illovo, Johannesburg.
Picture credit: Reg Caldecott

The Grand Prix series was introduced in 2007, and has become South Africa’s biggest and most prestigious women’s road-running series. The top runners in the five Challenge races held around the country earn Grand Prix points from each race. The 2015 winner will pocket a cheque for a whopping R150 000. The second prize has been increased by R20 000 to R50 000, and the third prize is now worth R30 000. There are cash prizes for the top 15 runners on the points table, making it worthwhile for runners to compete in all five races.
The top runners in the different age categories will also receive increased prize money, with the first on the ladder in her category receiving R4000. The second prize is worth R3000 and the third prize is R1500.
Five runners have claimed the Grand Prix title over its eight-year history. Rene Kalmer, the first winner, is also the most successful, with three Grand Prix titles to her name. This is hardly surprising – Kalmer, who first competed in 1998, has won more Spar Challenge races than any other runner. Irvette van Zyl has won the Grand Prix twice, and Poppy Mlambo, Mapaseka Makhanya and last year’s winner, Diana-Lebo Phalula, have each won it once.
The financial incentive has done wonders for the Spar Challenge series, with more runners eager to earn points by competing in as many races as possible. But the races are also very popular with the elite runners because of their very nature.
“The thing about the Challenge races is that the women are the heroes,” said Sonja Laxton, who has run 81.
“In mixed races, the top woman is often surrounded by men as she crosses the finish line, whereas in the Spar races, she is the first to break the tape, and that is a really great feeling,” she said.
“There is always a wonderful vibe at the Challenge races, and they are a lot of fun”.
Laxton said the Challenge races had done a lot to encourage women to take up road running or walking.
“They enter the race, and then feel they have to do some training, and the next thing they know, they’ve been bitten by the bug,” she laughed.
“Women who might have been a bit wary of taking part in a mixed race feel more comfortable about competing in a women’s race.”
SPAR Group Marketing Executive, Mike Prentice said the Grand Prix series was one of the grocery giant’s most successful sponsorships.
“The Challenge races fit perfectly with our philosophy of getting involved in the community, and the Grand Prix is the cherry on the top. We are excited about increasing the prize money as we believe this will help the races to continue to attract South Africa’s top runners,” he said.
The first race in the 2015 Grand Prix series will be run in Cape Town on March 29. The Port Elizabeth race takes place on May 9 and the Durban event is on June 7. The Pretoria race, which is the only afternoon race, takes place on Saturday August 29, and the final race on the calendar is in Johannesburg on October 11.


Johannesburg, South Africa - Tennis South Africa announced their strongest possible Fed Cup team, including the country’s top-ranked female player, Chanelle Scheepers, for the Euro/Africa Group 2 tie from 4 to 7 February 2015 in Tallinn, Estonia. South Africa will face the hosts as well as Bosnia Herzegovina, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Egypt and Slovenia in the round-robin competition to be played at the Tere Tenniscentre.

KIA SA FED Cup Team player Chani Scheepers.
Picture by: Roger Anderson

KIA SA FED Cup Team player Chanel Simmonds.

KIA SA FED Cup Team player Ilze Hattingh.

KIA SA FED Cup Team player Michelle Sammons.

Picture by: BLD Communications.

The team, to be called the KIA SA Fed Cup Team, will be supported by KIA Motors South Africa.

KIA is excited to be part of the Fed Cup team set up and to facilitate their efforts to progress through the groups to a level that does justice to the talent we have in South Africa,” commented David Sieff, KIA South Africa Marketing Director. “We are also excited to have Chani spearheading the SA attack, and we wish the team every success on the tour”.

Scheepers achieved a career-high singles ranking of 37 in 2011 when she won the WTA title in Guangzhou, China. She is currently ranked 77 in the world, and is back on the SA Fed Cup team for the first time in 10 years.

“I’m so happy to be able to join the team again,” said Scheepers. “I love representing South Africa when I play around the world and it’s even more exciting to be able to do that in a team format with great young players coming up”.

South African Captain Earl Grainger named Chanel Simmonds, Ilze Hattingh, and Michelle Sammons as the three other players to join Scheepers on the team.

“I am delighted that Chani made herself available to play for South Africa. Chani is a great player and will bring so much respect and experience to the South African team,” said Grainger.

Last year South Africa failed to gain promotion to Euro/Africa Group 1 during their Fed Cup in Lithuania. With Scheepers in the side, Grainger believes that the team has a good chance of gaining promotion this year.

“Without doubt Chani will give us our best chance of promotion,” said Grainger. “With her vast experience, we know that our chances are the best ever and, with Chani part of the team, my options of selection as Coach are greater.”

Tennis South Africa confirmed that the team would be having a pre-departure camp from 28 January 2015 at the Bedfordview Country Club before heading to Estonia on 31 January 2015.

South African team rankings (singles/doubles);

Chani Scheepers; Singles 81, Doubles: 127
Chanel Simmonds; Singles 309, Doubles: 258
Ilze Hattingh; Singles 656, Doubles: 526
Michelle Sammons; Singles 674, Doubles: 348


Pretoria, South Africa – Netball South Africa (NSA) announced on Tuesday the appointment of Benny Saayman as Head Coach of the SPAR Protea team. She will be assisted by Dr Elsje Jordaan and Martha Mosoahle.

Ms Benny Saayman has been appointed as Head Coach of the SPAR Protea Netball team.

Martha Mosoahle-Samm has been appointed as assistant coach of the SPAR Protea Netball team.

Dr Elsje Jordaan has been appointed as assistant coach of the SPAR Protea Netball team.

Pictures by: Reg Caldecott

Their appointment is with effect from 01 February 2015 till 31 August 2015. They replace Elize Kotze, who resigned as head coach last week, for personal reasons.
“We are confident that Ms Saayman would be able to guide the team to a successful Netball World Championships (WNC),” said NSA President Mimi Mthethwa.
“She is a mature coach who has been on the same platform before and during her tenure the team was ranked fifth in the world. Ms Saayman was the coach for the Western Stings, the NPL that won the second division of the Brutal Fruit Netball Cup last year. Her trademark is playing basic netball. It would be important for our team to go back to playing basic netball where all the skills they have acquired in the last three years under the former coach would come in handy to support and strengthen their play.
“We had a frank discussion with Ms Saayman to ensure that she and her assistants work as a team. We are happy with how she sees their roles as individual coaches. She was given the opportunity to suggest who she thinks would add value to her game plan; she identified the two assistants.”
“I am confident Dr Jordaan would contribute a lot towards the attack aspect of the game while Martha Mosoahle is very good in mid-court and would be instrumental in improving this area of the game,” said Saayman.
“I will guide and nurture both the assistant coaches. Elsje (Jordaan) played under me when I was national coach, I know her as a player and I can also say she is currently the best game analyst we have in South Africa. She and Martha both captained the SPAR Proteas during their playing days. I will also work hard to build the team to understand that we are family. I would like our team to play basic, fast netball”.
Saayman said South Africa had enough quality players, both black and white, to do a good job in the WNC. She was quick to point out that she was not coming in to perform miracles but was definitely looking forward to the challenge of preparing the team to do well at the WNC.
South Africa is drawn along Malawi, Singapore and Sri Lanka in Pool C (INF has indicated that this might change). Although this might look like an easy pool, it would be bad for the team to take these teams lightly. Regardless of where the team ends in the pool, if they are position one or two they are guaranteed to meet either Australia or New Zealand in the next stage of the competition.
Mthethwa said plans for team preparation had been worked out before the Kotze’s resignation, and Saayman was expected to proceed with these plans.


Pretoria, South Africa – Netball South Africa (NSA) confirmed on Wednesday that it had accepted the resignation for personal reasons of the head coach of the SPAR National team, Elize Kotze.


Picture credit: Reg Caldecott

“We had a meeting with the coach on Monday to discuss the team’s preparations for the World Championships in Sydney in August,” said NSA President Mimi Mthethwa.
“At that meeting, she read us a letter tendering her resignation. She said she had given the matter much thought and had decided that it was necessary for her to resign.”
In her letter of resignation, Kotze said she had experienced a trying time in her life, and for personal reasons beyond her control, had decided to resign as national coach.
It is known that Kotze’s son has been critically ill, spending several weeks in intensive care.
Kotze said it had been an honour and a privilege to coach the national team.
“I am passionate about netball, and have always believed we can compete successfully against the best in the world,” she said.
“Their talent is exponential, and I will be behind them all the way.”
Kotze was appointed head coach in 2011, and took the Proteas to fifth place in the World Championships in Singapore that year, beating arch-rivals Malawi in the play-off for fifth place. However, the team lost to Malawi in the fifth-place play-off at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year, and dropped back to sixth place in the world rankings.
Mthethwa said Kotze’s resignation had come as a shock, but there was still enough time for a new coaching team to prepare the Proteas for the World Championships.
“We will have a team of coaches focusing on different aspects. For instance, while our defensive play is outstanding, we need to be more attacking, so we will have a coach who can develop that style of play,” said Mthethwa.
“The team of coaches will operate under a head coach, and we expect to make that appointment next week.”
“We are very grateful to Elize for her outstanding work with the team,” said Mthethwa.
“She took over when the team was down, and brought them back into contention. She has laid an excellent foundation for the coaching team to build on.”
Mthethwa said NSA had considered bringing in a coach from one of the powerhouses of world netball, Australia or New Zealand, but felt that there were people in South Africa who were capable of taking the team further.
“However, we are bringing the former Australian coach, Norma Plummer, out to work with the 15 top players for two weeks in February. Norma was coach of the Australian team that won gold in Singapore in 2011, and she will bring much to our team.”

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