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FNB Wits ready for a strong showing as 2022 Varsity Cup gets underway

- Tshepiso Mametela

FNB Wits will be eyeing nothing less than a strong start to the 2022 FNB Varsity Cup when the annual flagship inter-university rugby union competition makes its much-anticipated return on Monday, 14 February.

With the bio bubble that reined in the previous edition of the tournament now a thing of the past due to dwindling Covid-19 infection numbers, the side is amped to sharpen its claws against a young FNB Madibaz outfit boasting only four players from last year’s squad.

Braced to lead his charges for this first encounter in a total of nine round-robin games under ‘Monday Night Lights’ starting at the Wits Rugby Stadium is Ebot Buma, who’s been handed the responsibility of wearing the captain’s armband.

“We had a long pre-season, so we can manage any load or intensity that comes our way,” said Buma confidently. “This year’s format is better as we will only play one match a week, allowing the lads [enough] time to recover.

“We might tweak our tactics slightly to combat each opponent, but our basics will stay the same. We’re entering a new era of Wits rugby, with many new faces and talent that is hungry to make a mark.”

The burly prop said he looks to make an immense contribution to Wits’ cause to improve on the side’s third-place finish in 2018. With his go-to recipe comprising his love of church, family and his two pet dogs, among a host of other things, Buma has whetted his readiness for the challenge to come.

“My contributions will fall in line with the team’s way of play: ‘fast and furious’. I will make sure that I show this in every scrum, ball carry, tackle, maul, lift, and, if need be, steal balls at the ruck. As rewarding as it is, being a student-athlete can be taxing on the mind, body and spirit.

“Fortunately, over the years, I’ve discovered through trial and error what works and helps me be the best version of myself,” said the skipper. Touching on the player recruitment programme and how he’s seen it coming through at the institution in the last few seasons, Buma said Wits is in a prime position to tap into its well-stocked reserves.

The university faces the prospect of losing several players to the Under-20 provincial and Currie Cup tournaments that will run concurrently with the Varsity Cup. “I am a product of the player recruitment programme, and there are several players in the team with whom I started my Wits journey,” he added.

“Every year, we get more and more players who have played junior provincial rugby and represented the country at junior level. Seeing as the other competitions are playing at the same time, we might not get to utilise all those players. But, best believe, we have all the players we need to get the job done.”

Wits para athlete Tumelo Letsogo bags silver at SA Tennis Championships

- Tshepiso Mametela

Wits University’s table tennis sensation Tumelo Letsogo (Bachelor of Accounting Science Student) backspinned his way to a silver medal at the 2022 SA Para Junior and Senior Table Tennis Championships in Bloemfontein as the national competition marked a comeback on 25 February 2022.

Intellectually impaired and disabled talent from across the nine provinces converged at the Tempe Military Base Indoor Sports Complex for three days of fierce competition which culminated after a years-long hiatus.

“I missed the tournament, to be honest. I last played in 2017 and it meant a lot for me to get back in the groove,” revealed the 22-year-old on reflection of his bronze medal finish during an inaugural appearance at the Free State Table Tennis Federation (FSTTF) tournament nine years ago.

“I’ve been going to the championships since then but didn't expect a silver on this occasion. I only hoped to stand on the podium for any medal,” added Letsogo, who despite his category 7 status in the classification system, knuckled down to play in a broader class on this occasion.

Athletes are classified based on their functional ability and how much their impairment impacts their performance in the sport.

Class 7 athletes have a severe impairment of the legs or the playing arm. When he was younger, Letsogo was diagnosed with a congenital deformity of the upper limbs.

He’s managed to beat the odds undeterred and has established himself as a formidable player.  Competing under class 6 to 10 dedicated to Para athletes who play in a standing position, the accounting science student used his service shots to devastating effect.

But Letsogo’s efforts might have fallen short of notice as, by his own account, disabled sport does not receive enough coverage or endorsement from the wider South African public.

He, therefore, in his own way, hopes to help influence an improved reception to the parasport.

“In most cases, we only have one tournament annually. I want to influence many people, especially disabled athletes, to compete in sport. Mostly in table tennis, as it is still a developing discipline in SA,” he said.

‘Today, we played for one another,’ – Wits 2022 FNB Varsity Cup captain

- Tshepiso Mametela

Wits sent out a stern warning through their captain of the 2022 Varsity Cup campaign, Ebot Buma, who spoke with a clear voice masked by a hint of emotion as he reflected on his side’s historic 53-31 win over Shimlas.

And an emotional affair it was for the dark horses of the tournament, who’ve become accustomed to being written off early by their detractors, the same way it happened in 2018 when Wits put a cap on their best-ever showing in the competition by finishing in third place.

If the display on Monday at the Wits Rugby Stadium is anything to go by three seasons since Wits fell to Maties in the semi-finals, the side will look to unearth more surprises on their way to a potential title challenge this year.

Buma is under no illusions of how big a boost their latest performance is to this cause. Winger Wian de Lange’s two tries and 26 points from the boot of flyhalf Chris Humphries can mostly be credited for the offensive against a strong UFS outfit, who, until that point, had gone unbeaten in the competition.

“Today, we played for one another,” said Buma as he attributed the success on the field to a team effort. “We’ve had a great start to the season by winning three out of four, but we can’t be too overly confident or arrogant.

“I think we need to slow it down, stick to our structures and our basics. We can’t be too excited and need to take it one game at a time. It was a tough, physical game, but we were at home. We pride ourselves in our fortress and felt we couldn’t let anyone down today.”

Clear that complacency would not have a place in the team as they prepare to visit their Johannesburg rivals UJ next week, the skipper, not wanting to dwell too much on the expectedly fierce contest, said everything will be left on the field. UJ, who sit one place behind Wits on the log, have only managed to eke out one win from their four outings.

The Orange Army came close to pulling off a shock win in Stellenbosch over a Maties side that overcame Wits at the same venue last week – having had their noses 12-3 in front before eventually slipping to a 40-38 loss.

“Going into next week, we’ll see what happens. We’ll obviously do a video analysis of UJ’s games and then make a plan on that”, said Buma, whose choice not to say too much on the upcoming crunch fixture was betrayed only by his scoff.


Inaugural Wits Sport and Health Congress to be held in March

- Tshepiso Mametela

Wits University’s Faculty of Health Sciences hosts the first Wits Sport and Health (WiSH) Congress

Featuring 3 high profile overseas speakers, Prof Jonathan Drezner (USA), Dr Jane Thornton (Canada) and Dr Joanne Thornton (Australia) as well as leading exercise and sports medicine experts from Wits and South Africa, the conference will be held at the Hilton in Sandton, Johannesburg, from 11 to 13 March. 
Led by WiSH director and professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Jon Patricios, healthcare professionals, including doctors, physios, biokineticists, podiatrists and chiropractors from across the region, are invited to participate in informative, engaging plenary sessions. 
Patricios emphasised the importance of physical activity in health. “Despite many pharmacological and surgical advances, exercise as an intervention remains the most powerful tool in disease prevention. Inherently, sport is one of the most effective ways of building social cohesion,” 
“But one of the areas the Faculty of Health Sciences has not fully explored is that of sports medicine and exercise science. Johannesburg has a flourishing sports medicine fraternity, many recognised pockets of excellence in injury management, among others, but little in terms of a cohesive network and academic training programmes.” 

As one of the central themes of the discussions, Patricios and colleagues will explore the role of SEM in shaping the lives of athletes and communities in the Covid-19 era. 
The research group recently published a paper, entitled Small steps, strong shield: Directly measured, moderate physical activity in 65 361 adults is associated with significant protective effects from severe Covid-19 outcomes, which shows that regular physical activity protects against adverse outcomes of the virus.

The study aimed to determine the association between directly measured physical activity and hospital admissions, ventilation and mortality rates in patients with a confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis. The study found that adults with high and moderate physical activity levels had significantly better outcomes than those with low activity when contracting the virus. 
In his opinion, Patricios said sports medicine has positively impacted how high-performance teams and athletes approach their discipline. “SEM has had a huge impact over the last two decades, including injury prevention, optimising performance, better diagnosis and a greater range of interventions for management,” said Patricios. 
There will be talks and workshops on a range of sports injuries and musculoskeletal conditions. 

The programme will also showcase contributions from SEM physician Phatokuhle Zondi, physiotherapy clinician Megyn Robertson and biokineticist Jannie Klingbiel as part of a wide pool of experts.  

Wits come close against Pirates in fiercely contested Wits Spirit Game

- Tshepiso Mametela

Wits FC and Orlando Pirates served up an exciting contest that ended 1-0 in favour of the Buccaneers in the latest instalment of the Wits Spirit Game in Braamfontein on 25 February 2022.  

The boys in blue and gold dug deep in their own backyard in pursuit of glory at the expense of their more fancied opponents but saw a premature disruption to their plans as the weather ensured an end to the match midway through the second half at the Wits University Football Stadium. 

For Wits centre back Kal Laing, although rueing not coming face to face with some of the club’s biggest names, the friendly game was as pulsating as any he’s been involved in, to date. The 24-year-old enjoyed playing in front of a boisterous Wits crowd, having been an 11th man poorer for much of the last 24 months due to Covid restrictions. 

“The atmosphere was definitely electric and almost felt like a new feeling after playing football behind closed doors for close to two years,” an excited Laing recalled of the affair. 
“Pirates brought their A-game, as expected, which allowed us to test ourselves. But disappointingly, they did not bring any first-team players. Having one or two [in the game] would’ve made the encounter even more interesting.” 

Wits closed out the 2021 Varsity Football season in fifth place, a mere one point behind, TUT, and four behind eventual winners and Johannesburg rivals, UJ, after seven rounds of games. 
The current spirit in the camp has given Laing an extra sliver of confidence for the season ahead. “I am extremely excited for what is to come from our varsity football side this year,” said the fourth-year animal, plant and environmental sciences student. 

“There have been a few young, talented boys brought in to strengthen the squad, and I look forward to being there as part of the old guard, playing my role in guiding the side to victory. 

“We’ve developed a short history over the years for always falling at the last hurdle and at critical points in tournaments. So, this year, I look forward to getting over those hurdles and bringing some silverware home,” Laing added, vocal about his hopes to end his last year at the university on a high. 
One man who will be hoping Laing and other final-year athletes sign off in grand style is Wits FC mentor, Alzavian van Rheede, who traded any disappointment he may have had in the outcome for something approaching optimism. 

“Tactically, we tried our best to find balance in the team with the players we had available. It was a good opportunity for our Varsity Football team to play in a stadium environment that had so many people,” said van Rheede noting the ongoing development in the side. 

“Varsity Football has a similar vibe, and the match was important to help with the development of our first-year students. One can always look back and question certain tactics, and so on, but we look forward and continue to try and develop the individuals and squad from this encounter.” 

Speaking on the new faces pulled into the set-up, van Rheede said things were looking sharp thanks to the goalkeeping prospects who joined Wits from Cape Town Spurs and Randburg FC, respectively. 
The backline has also been beefed up for the rest of the season with Wade Poole, a centre back who captained Kaizer Chiefs’ under-19 team before joining Wits, another exciting revelation. “He is a player with a lot of leadership qualities and an amazing personality that goes hand in hand with the culture we are trying to build at Wits University.” 

 Final score: Wits FC 0-1 Orlando Pirates  

Wits confident of turnaround as FNB Varsity Cup semis edge closer

- Tshepiso Mametela

Wits still have their eye on the prize after a slim 29-25 defeat to rivals UJ in the fifth round of the 2022 FNB Varsity Cup on Monday, 14 March 2022. 

Wits captain and right prop Ebot Buma believes a resurgence for the Braamfontein side is on the cards, with the minor setback against their neighbours doing little to derail their campaign efforts. 

This is as the team showed enough grit at the start of the second stanza, after going into the halftime break trailing the match 17-3, for fullback Setshaba Mokoena to cross the whitewash for the blue and yellow's first try. 

Powering forward again to dismantle the opponents' defence, Mokoena created the second try scored brilliantly through forward Phillip Krause before flyhalf Chris Humphries delivered the goods with his right foot to level the scores 17-all. 

Try number three by outside centre Liyema Matyolweni then pushed the visitors into the lead with 20 minutes remaining in the contest. In the end, the hosts held their nerve to complete the win over their city rivals and, in the process, secure the bragging rights. 

"Not the result we wanted, but we take it on the chin, and we move. There were a couple of positives, especially the character shown by the lads to fight back in the second half," said Buma, speaking on the sidelines of an enthralling Joburg derby. 

"What worked for us was bringing physicality, our lineout defence, although we could've been a lot better in terms of our set-pieces, including our scrum – we gave away quite a few penalties in our scrummaging. But that's something I and the rest of the front row need to fix." 

Buma said the outcome will do anything but deter the 2018 semi-finalists, who remain eager to reach the knockout stage of the annual inter-university spectacle. The side next clashes with an FNB UWC outfit they know all too well after Wits' emphatic 40-10 triumph recorded in the first round of the 2020 edition at the UWC Stadium. 

"That is still what we're aiming for, which makes the rest of the fixtures a lot more crucial. But coming into this game, one could say there was pressure solely because it was a Joburg derby," said the skipper ahead of the preparations for the upcoming humdinger. 

"As cliché as it may sound, we just have to go back to the drawing board and analyse UWC's fixtures and figure out a game plan for when we play them. In the end, we hope to make the Wits proud." 

Farewell and Rest in Peace.


Wits University has learnt with sadness of the passing of Mr Michael Dick, the former head of Wits Sport Administration, who suddenly passed away this morning, Friday, 8 April 2022. The University extends its heartfelt condolences to his family, colleagues, friends and the many students that he served.

Michael, fondly known as Moby, joined Wits Sport as the Senior Manager for High Performance Sport in January 2016 and became the Director from 2020 to December 2021. Under his leadership, Wits Sport High Performance Sport received many accolades including their first Varsity Cup Basketball win, first Varsity Football final in 2018 and first ever Varsity Cup Ladies’ Football semi-final in 2021. He also spearheaded the Wits Sport Centenary Book and was instrumental in forming the WISH Foundation.

The family is still coming to terms with this loss and will communicate details regarding Michael’s memorial service in due course.

For more details, please contact Rene Green at 011 717 9406 or 082 095 8588 or Faith Mashile at 011 717 9403 / 071 818 0850.

Wits Sport administrator clinches 2022 Gauteng Women in Sport award

- Tshepiso Mametela

Wits Sport administrative assistant and sports officer Vinolia Austin walked off with the Administrator of the Year award – her second Futballing Girls accolade in as many years – at the 2022 Gauteng Women in Sport Awards held in Braamfontein last month.

Austin joined the ranks at the university as an intern in August 2018, quickly proving her credentials to become an admin assistant at Wits Sport, where she efficiently manages the institution’s high-performance programmes to ensure the smooth running of the various structures.

The awards, founded by Futballing Girls NPO managing director Moonira Ramathula, celebrate and recognise the performance of women in sport at various levels and addresses the issues affecting the growth of female sports.

A proud Austin, the recipient of the regional Johannesburg Administrator of the Year award in November last year, spoke to Wits Sport about her latest success, her contributions at Wits and the hopes she has for females participating in sport.

What does winning this accolade mean to you, and to what do you attribute the success?

Teamwork makes the dream work. All I have achieved is because of the support and assistance of the people around me. As this was the Gauteng Women in Sports Awards, it was my first provincial award. It’s a step up from the district awards.

How has your work in shaping the administrative programme at Wits University contributed to this recognition?

My work has assisted in the implementation and execution of effective structures. Recognition is a natural motivator as it gives one a chance to see how significant your role is in the various structures and systems. My contributions in assisting the different teams reach their goals translated into a successful previous season.

How do you look to make good on your profile as one of the leading sports administrators in Gauteng? What exciting developments are in the pipeline for the year ahead?

Currently, the main focus is to complete my Master’s Degree in Sports Management and to continue building effective structures which will extend the winning culture within Wits Sport.

Have there been any notable changes in the province around recognising female role players in sports?

There are a lot of women in sports whom I feel deserve to be recognised, especially in the university space. Student-athletes have so much that they are dealing with daily but still manage to make national teams and complete their degrees. It’s remarkable to watch, and I do not think this gets the credit it deserves. 

History made as Witsies hold Maties in FNB Young Guns final round

- Tshepiso Mametela

Wits concluded their passage in the FNB Varsity Young Guns (YGuns) competition on a high after eking out a 34-all draw against Maties at the Coetzenburg Stadium in Stellenbosch on Monday, 11 April.

The dark horses of the 2022 tournament finished in fourth place on the log after securing three wins from their five encounters in Group B. “We wanted to end on top of the log and were hoping for a place in the playoffs.

“A couple of things did not go our way, but we are happy with what we achieved on the field,” said FNB Wits YGuns head coach Roland Bernard, admitting the outcome was not what his side anticipated going into this year’s campaign.

Despite this, the coach said several boxes were checked, with Wits showing glimmers of what they are capable of in the under-20 format comprising the ten competing FNB Varsity Cup universities.

Bernard added he was impressed by the slice of history his chargers made good on as Wits had never beaten the Maroon Machine at this level.

“You need to take your chances when they present themselves, learn from your mistakes and rectify them quickly. Probably not all the boxes but all in all, we are happy with what we achieved. We are grateful to be part of a little piece of history,” he said.

“We believe we could have achieved a win if we tweaked a thing here or there, primarily starting better. It seems to have been something that plagued us during the season; gifting points to the opposition and only starting to play once we were in an unfavourable position.

“Had we started the game [against Maties] better, who knows what the outcome might have been? At the beginning of the season, we set out to change the perception of simply being participants but competitors. We always believed, and, I think, scoring that try just before halftime ignited more belief in the lads.”

Bernard said Wits has since set a few objectives to carry the momentum forward, with a little more than half the year remaining.  Chiefly, he said the institution aims to shine at the 2022 University Sports South Africa (USSA) Rugby Championships in July.

He said the coaching staff appreciates they have a solid platform to build from and not merely be a flash in the pan squad “but add value to Wits Rugby in terms of culture and play.” He added: “We would like to approach the USSA campaign with confidence and work hard not to waste what has already been achieved.”

Wits ladies break into Lions Women’s rugby mould

- Tshepiso Mametela

Two Wits rugby players received invites to a Lions Women’s camp held at the Johannesburg Stadium in New Doornfontein in preparation for the 2022 Women’s Inter-Provincial League this month.

Marenda Morwatshehla and Dayna Vos, who play for the university’s only women’s team that contests the annual Mastercard Women’s Pirates Grand Challenge, both received their first call-ups to the rugby union side.

The pair were selected after Wits got their season underway in February. Morwatshehla, a third-year BCom Accounting student whom one day hopes to play for the Springbok Women, eagerly took the chance to train with the provincial outfit.

“I’m gratified to have been one of the ladies chosen. I felt like I was among some of the greatest people in this field. This opportunity meant I was a step closer to being the greatest in the field, too,” said Morwatshehla.

“The training was everything and more. But there were things I didn’t know about, having played rugby for only two years before this. The trial run introduced me to these things. It helped up my game and I can safely say that going forward, I will be the best in it.”

The 20-year-old lock was, however, unable to make the final squad but welcomed the experience. Noting the lessons picked up at the camp, she said she seeks to strike a balance between her game and studies.

“One of my objectives is to effectively fit academics and rugby into my schedule to achieve a balanced life. Little things like how to stand up quickly after a tackle,” Morwatshehla recalled.

“Also, I wasn’t the best at scrums, but I learnt how to properly stand in position to maintain my balance. In addition, I learnt that communication and support in the field are the best weapons one can use to change the game.”

Vos, who could not participate in the camp due to personal issues, said she was honoured to be chosen and will use the endorsement to improve her knowledge of the basics.

“I was wrestling a bit with [the call-up] because I was pretty sure I would not be able to make the commitment to the team due to a family obligation,” the Information Systems student said.

“I believe training with all those talented players would have been a wonderful experience. From here, I plan to focus on the basics of the game. I also intend to learn more about the strategy and structure of rugby since it is different to any other sport I’ve played.”

Wits flag flies high at maiden Korean TSD tournament

- Tshepiso Mametela

The Wits Tang Soo Do (TSD) Club returned 19 medals at the inaugural Korean Full Contact Systems (KFS) Tournament hosted in conjunction with Martial Arts South Africa (MASA) in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga, on 2 April.

Ten members of the Braamfontein-based dojang under 7th Dan Tang Soo Do and 2nd Dan Haedong Kumdo instructor, Master Gregory Hart, took to the carpet at the Wolves Academy to showcase their skills in weapon forms, point sparring, continuous sparring and low kick sparring in what was the opening national TSD event of the year.

Competing across novice (beginner) and intermediate (advanced) categories, the seven female and three male athletes, proved their mettle against the other well-trained fighters from some of the country’s more recognised dojangs, including White River Kickboxing Gym, Nelspruit Kickboxing Gym and Warriors of Faith Martial Arts Academy.

Intermediate level fighters Anushka Monema, who bagged one gold and a silver medal, Makgabo Mahopo, who walked away with a silver medal, and Wits TSD chairperson Lehlohonolo Motho, who secured one gold and two bronze medals, participated in their maiden black belt divisions.

“To take part in the first-ever KFS tournament was an awesome experience for us. As a club, we do not partake in a lot of full-contact or kickboxing tournaments. So, it was great for us to come up against different martial arts styles,” Motho told Wits Sport.

“We learned about a lot that we need to implement in our club to improve our sparring. Our athletes realised some things about themselves that they will need to improve so we can perform better at upcoming tournaments.”

Motho, who believes the lessons they gained exposure to at the tournament will assist in raising Wits’ profile in the combat art sport, said competing against several leading dojangs was invaluable for the group.

“Our style has two components to it – traditional and combat styles. We also realised that we have not been embracing the [latter] enough. As a result, Master Gregory has implemented new strategies and training programs after the tournament to help us perform better.”

In the end, Wits closed out the tournament with seven gold, eight silver and four bronze medals, with every TSD member of the group fighting their way to a prized podium finish.

After clinching three medals apiece, Motho and novice Rutendo Nyikadzino finished with the highest individual medals count for Wits. Meanwhile, another beginner at the university, Nokuthula Simelane, boasted the highest first prize tally after she fought her way to two gold medals.

Wits chess ace turned YouTuber answers coaching call

- Tshepiso Mametela

Wits Chess Club’s (WCC) Koketso Mathebe is embarking on a new journey as a chess tutor after launching a YouTube channel dedicated to teaching the strategic board game more than a year ago.

The mining engineering student swapped his playing hat for a coaching stint by taking up the role of an instructor at Wits and at a religious Jewish Day School, Yeshiva College in Glenhazel, Johannesburg, where he lends his expertise to keen pupils across various grades.

Having leaned toward digital content creation to inspire a new hoard of forward-thinking board gamers, Mathebe aims to explore other social networking platforms such as Instagram to spread the power of chess.

“Because I’ve lost access to my email, I no longer post content on YouTube and TikTok,” said Mathebe. “So, I am now focusing more on private coaching at schools, but it is still available for those who want to learn.

“In the same vein, to make chess fun and for the mere thrill of it, I will post videos on Instagram. It won’t be as much about teaching, but show people playing bullet or blitz chess on campus (street chess).”

Mathebe said the impact of the tutorials he provides on social media surpassed his expectations, which he will use to leverage his current endeavours as a tutor. “Going from just YouTube to private coaching has been big for me,” said the gushing aficionado.

“I didn’t expect expanding to coaching at schools. It has been an honour, and Yeshiva College, specifically, is determined when it comes to sport and doing well. I’ve also started coaching WCC, but I have had to stop [temporarily] for personal reasons.

“Hopefully, I will continue with the club in the second term. Due to positive feedback, i.e., that people have learned how to play chess from scratch using my videos, I look forward to availing my services and teaching more.”

The student has clear objectives for spreading the reach of chess, especially in underdeveloped communities that lack resources.

“It seems like a long term goal, but I want to give back to my community; give them the necessary resources and exposure to participate in tournaments,” he said, noting his desire to assist WCC to excel this year, starting with the USSA Chess Challenge first round in May.

“I strongly believe in WCC and have seen a lot of potential there. My goal is to see them reach their ultimate goals by working with the club so they can do well at the USSAs.”


Koketso Mathebe in action 

Rough conditions at 2022 USSA sprints buoy a competitive Wits Rowing Club

- Tshepiso Mametela

The Wits Rowing Club (WRC) laid down an early marker for a successful rowing season by clinching 5th place overall at the 2022 USSA Rowing Sprints Regatta hosted by USSA Rowing and UCT at the Eikenhof Dam from 8 to 9 April 2022. 

Taking to harsh waters amid inclement conditions characterised by strong winds, WRC’s men’s and women’s teams braved a competitive field comprising eight competing university teams, including UJ, Tuks and Stellenbosch University, to rake up fifth-place finishes, respectively.

“We have greatly improved since 2019, which is a step in the right direction. We lost to clubs with better financial resources, boats, and facilities,” said WRC president and current USSA-R vice-chair Marco Sass.

Wits finished 6th in the team ergo event after going into the year’s races with a 30 per cent transformation rate. Sass said the university fielded several novices and applauded the group’s preparation ahead of the gruelling tour.

“It was positive to see and experience. As the results show, we competed extremely well in the B division. Although we struggled a little in the A division events, this was partly due to the number of races compromised by poor conditions and national team athletes competing. The tour also had a few other issues that were out of our hands.”

Due to the adverse weather, event organisers made the call to scrap the men’s A double heavy and lightweight, C coxed four and D double events after the safety of the rowers became a concern. The women’s B pair, B quad, B eight, D coxed four and D scull races were also not spared the axe during the two days of competition.

Several WRC rowers were unable to make their starts, with at least two opposing universities sinking their boats on the Palmiet River.

“The cancelled events meant many of our athletes could not go out and race. We came close to sinking three of our boats due to the wind being too strong and creating very high waves, which put water in the boats,” said Sass, who, despite the challenges, praised the outing and labelled it as a step in the right direction.

Wits will now turn its attention to the USSA Boat Race at Rhodes University in Port Alfred on 15, 16 and 17 September, where WRC will hope to mount a stern challenge for top finishes. “The tour provided valuable data and feedback to the coaching staff, who have created a full schedule for the Boat Race in September.

“Our coaches were happy, and we were even complimented by national team coaches on our performances, given what we had and the athletes we fielded. The goal is now to bring a massive performance in the Boat Race. We’re aiming for a fourth-place finish in the men’s races and at least fifth in the women’s events.”

Sports officer for rowing at Wits Sport, Tebogo Rabothata, commended WRC’s recent showing, saying the performance will ensure that the institution is a force to be reckoned with on the rowing circuit.

“I’m happy the club managed to finish in a respectable position considering that we didn’t compete in any official tournament due to Covid-19 challenges last year. We’re looking at building from these results at upcoming USSA competitions.

“This will also be a good motivation to the rowing club going forward, as our aim is to compete and get good results and not merely add to the numbers,” noted Rabothata.



New winners crowned in successful 2022 Wits Ashies Tournament

- Tshepiso Mametela

The Wits Ashraf Lodewyk Memorial Basketball Tournament returned for its 16th edition at the courts of Wits University’s West Campus in Braamfontein from 25 April to 2 May.


Featuring 33 teams, the fanfare in Hall 29 came to a head when the Phenomenal Phenoms emerged as back to back men’s champions of the annual flagship event.


An equally solid showing from V&J Basketball Club ensured that the Johannesburg women’s outfit secured their third winner’s medal after bagging consecutive championship-winning campaigns in 2015 and 2016.


The tributary exhibition pays homage to a former student. Known affectionately as Ashie among his peers, he was a devastating Wits Horny Bucks player and an administrator within the Wits Basketball Club (WBC). He filled this role until his untimely death in a car accident more than a decade ago.


Phenoms owner, Richard Nta, described the recent success as monumental, noting his club dug deep to emulate the late player’s winning spirit captured during an impactful run at Wits.


“It’s an amazing achievement not only for myself. I could not have done it without the collective winning mindset of the team and, of course, the support behind the scenes,” said Nta.


“None of this is achieved without support. I am forever filled with gratitude and humbled by the team's outstanding accomplishment.


“It is extremely important to build on this success. However, support and resources are fundamental. The success is attributed to planning and shared phenomenal team values.


“I attribute this to ‘knowing what is needed to win’. That is, great recruitment, skills and experience. We learned from our past mistakes and executed accordingly,” added Nta, who looks forward to a successful run as one of Gauteng’s premier basketball clubs.


“As long as we have more and more organised tournaments like Ashies, we are excited and enthusiastic to continue competing and playing at a high level. We have ambitious goals of playing in the Basketball Africa League (BAL) and want to make our brand a viable attraction for big name sponsors.”


WBC chairperson Thandiwe Padziwe felt encouraged by this year’s Ashies, earmarking the tournament as an overwhelming success. She credited the club for overcoming several issues as Wits readied to stage the event.


The university had to adhere to specific Covid-19 rules, although relaxed under the current alert level 1 lockdown regulations, to play host to a sizeable contingent which saw fewer clubs participating compared to its largest-ever pool of 35.


“Throughout all the difficulties of planning through Covid and getting it going again we managed to run the full week without issues,” said Padziwe. “It’s safe to say it was one of the biggest tournaments since its inception.


“We had to go back to the drawing board to make it work. It was our first tournament under a pandemic, in which we had to look at how to adhere to Covid-19 protocols. Meanwhile, we had to ensure a fun and safe tournament for everyone.”


The Wits Lady Bucks point guard noted that the 2022 edition was a good advertisement for the basketball landscape in Johannesburg.


Padziwe applauded the event for allowing players to compete and gauge themselves against their South African counterparts. This allowed less experienced players to test their mettle against a decorated hoard that has gained exposure to international stages such as the BAL.


“We hosted some of the best teams in SA and had international talent taking part. The tournament was live streamed and Hall 29 was full of supporters,” said Padziwe.


“There’s also been an increase of people outside of the basketball community coming down to watch and taking an interest in the sport.


“To have played in the 16th edition of the Ashraf Invitational was to compete against some of the most elite players in basketball. It’s only going to get bigger if you ask me.”


V&J Basketball Club 2022 Ashies Champions - Women's Division 

Phenomenal Phenoms  2022 Ashies Champions -  Men's Division

Top student-athletes shine brightly at Wits University graduations 2022

- Tshepiso Mametela

A new wave of Wits graduates sent ripples across the institution as the group earned their academic stripes at the recent graduation ceremonies hosted at the University Library Lawns from 19 to 29 April.

Wits Sport’s talented hoard of student-athletes was no exception as, replicating the on-field exploits for which they are known, shone by taking to the podium to accept their respective prizes.

A total of eight established Wits basketball players achieved the spectacular milestone, including Sindiswa Mabunda (BCom Hons), Ipeleng Nyatlo (BCom), Isira Jayamanna Mohottalalage (BA), Clinton Meela (BSc), Thandiwe Nqanda (BA) and Amanda Khumalo (BA Hons).

Sarah Wright (BSc Hons) and Fatima Daya (BSc) also attained a feather in their caps among several athletes from the Wits Ultimate Frisbee Club. Meela said it was an honour to be among the recent graduates, giving special mention to those who supported him on his journey.

“All this is through the support I get from my family and friends, especially my mom. I’m also thankful to Wits Sport and my teammates for helping me achieve this goal. My field is science, so I plan to assist federations with diet plans and teach them the importance of good health.

“I want to open a laboratory in a township and do workshops for kids who want to study science. With the help of friends from other fields, we will organise career days to encourage them to realise their dreams,” added Meela, noting how he hopes to use his qualification.

Khumalo expressed excitement for finally attaining the qualification that a relative, now late, encouraged her to pursue. “It’s hard to put into words if, to be honest. It means the world to me.

“I lost my gran in May 2021, who, throughout my schooling career, coaxed me to keep on keeping on. She stressed the importance of education for a black female, and graduating as a student-athlete is the cherry on top,” said Khumalo.

“Student-athletes who graduate from Wits are not your average Joe. Excelling in more than one area is huge. However, in its entirety, [graduating] was bittersweet because I got what I came for but left behind a community that sometimes carried me without even knowing it.”

For Wright, whose graduation comes 30 years after her father, a Wits alumni, got his BSc Honours in Chemistry, balancing her exploits in the field and her studies was not an easy task, but in the end, she found the mix worked well.

“It certainly has been a challenge and a good one at that. Often, the fresh air and exercise from practice are just what I needed to get a break from my studies. It helped to get refreshed to study better,” said Wright.

To encourage up and coming student-athletes, who aspire to be successful sportsmen and women while pursuing their education, she said: “It is hard but so worth it. You only have your university time once, and you should make the most of it.

“Be intentional in what you do and how you do this, whether on the field or in your studies. This way, you can focus on what is on hand and have time for the sport and studies.”

Wits Student-Athlete Graduates

Wits Rugby

  • Neil Nyambe - BSc Property Studies
  • Asher Meyerowitz – BSc Construction Studies
  • Thomas Berman – BA Human Resources Management
  • Anton Gerber – BA Human Resources Management
  • Tshepang Rampete – BSc Property Studies (Women's Rugby Team Manager)
  • Chardele Williamson – Bachelor of Arts
  • Noluthando Nwaba – Bachelor of Arts
  • Amanda Dukada – BSc Construction Studies (Women's Rugby Team Manager)
  • Keagan Lailvaux – BSc Physiotherapy

Wits Football 

  •  Ayanda Ncube – BA Media Studies and International Relations
  • Matthew Welgemoed – Bachelor of Arts
  • Hazel Ngwenya – BA Political Studies and International Relations
  • Karabelo Manana – Bcom Accounting
  • Masilakhe Thuntubele – Master of Science in Development Planning
  • Njabulo Makhanya – BSc Construction Studies
  • Neo Maja – BSc Mathematics of Finance


Wits Volleyball 

  • Jessica Mlambo – Metallurgy and Materials Engineering


Wits Water polo 

  • Teaghan Stoop – BA in Psychology and Archaeology




Jaguars pummel their way to the top in Gauteng volleyball league

- Tshepiso Mametela

The Wits Jaguars women’s team won their second successive Gauteng Aqua Darshan Premier League series by beating VUT 2-0 in the finals in Benoni on 28 May.


The John Barrable Hall played host to 16 men’s and eight women’s teams that clash in a series of round-robin games once every month.

Teams accumulate points in each tournament, with the side boasting the highest aggregate being crowned the league champions at the end of the season.

Wits’ ladies, who overcame TUT by the same scoreline in the final of the first series in April, will next take to the court on 11 June for the third series.

Meanwhile, the Wits Jaguars men lost to Aqua Darshan Rebels in their quarter-final match, having suffered another knockout round defeat to Tuks in the first series.


Setter Lenah Fatah, who doubles up as Wits Jaguars women’s assistant coach and captain, said the team’s run in the league, which has seven series remaining, has been monumental, with the side amped to continue its superb form.


“It shows how hard we are working and how much of a powerhouse we are. We’re respected for our sportsmanship and bring the great quality of volleyball that is expected in this league,” she said.

“We’re motivated to display better volleyball and are training even harder in preparation for the games.

“One or two friendly matches will help us mend some loopholes. We, also, have more great players who were absent and are hoping to play in the next series.”


Fourth-year BPharm (Hons) student and the Jaguars women’s devastating middle blocker, Stacey Nheera, said there is a belief the team can make it a clean sweep by winning the upcoming tournaments.

But she cautioned against complacency and said the team could ill-afford taking any opponent for granted. “Nothing can stop us on the way up!” she said.

“It is not going to be easy. We cannot afford to get too comfortable. If anything, we need to work extra hard to defend our title.

“We need to put in the work as though we are the team that has lost twice in the finals. We are gunning to win the remaining tournaments and make history. We are well equipped to take on any team we meet in the final,” added Nheera.

“As it stands, we are dominating the province and hope to dominate throughout South Africa, given the opportunity to play against teams from other provinces.

“Our main goal is to grow the sport of volleyball and to build a strong brand around the Wits Volleyball Club.

“I strongly believe that Wits University can be both an academic and sporting institution, excelling in both departments.”


Wits Jaguars

Wits put on strong display at provincial regatta to qualify for SA Rowing Champs

- Tshepiso Mametela

The Wits Rowing Club (WRC) sent out a strong message ahead of the 2022 SA National Rowing Championships after braving challenging qualifying races at the Gauteng Senior Championships at Tshwane’s Roodeplaat Dam on 14 May.

Twenty rowers from Wits, including novice and experienced athletes, proved their mettle against a strong field comprising arch-rivals UJ and Tuks and the junior, senior national and World Student Games teams. 

In the men’s Scull B division, Jason Westman, Alessandro Patrizi, Marco Sass, Malose Makwea and Liam McCourt finished second, third, sixth, seventh and eighth in their respective heats but did not make the final. However, in the A division Coxed Four final, Sass, Westman, and Patrizi dug deep to bag a silver medal alongside Troy Van der Westhuysen.

In the hard-fought Pair races, Westman and Patrizi finished their heat in first place before an issue in the final dashed their hopes of clinching a medal in the B division. McCourt and Daniel Stoltz placed second in their heat, while Sass and Makwea finished fourth.

A stern showing in the Coxless Quad final saw Patrizi, McCourt, Westman, and Van der Westhuysen finishing fourth in the B division final. Meanwhile, Makwea, Stoltz, Sass and Phindo Nobadula claimed fifth place in their corresponding race.

For WRC’s women, Alicia Potgieter finished second in the B division Scull heats before placing fourth in the final. Attempting to replicate her teammate’s form, Matipa Marufu could only secure sixth position and missed out on the final.

Wits’ boats were scratched in the B division Pair races, resulting in a loss of R260 for the club. The crew suffered another blow in the C division Double races when their participation was scratched due to an illness. But the quartet of Keri-Lee Carstens, Kate Pringle, Amy Cooper and Potgieter spared the blushes of the team by sailing off with gold in the Coxless Four B division final.

Duma Mandimo, Jo Theo, Sarah Morrison and Lolly Luhadi crossed the finish line in third position in the women’s C division Coxless Four final before WRC ended the women’s B division Eight race in third place.

Sass looked back on the club’s blistering performances at the regatta, which, despite not having overall standings, served as a much-needed trial run for Wits ahead of several tough competitions. According to the WRC president and current USSA-R vice-chair, none will be sterner than the USSA Boat Race in September.

“Our focus was more towards the B division, where we think we could have been more competitive. And I do believe we were quite competitive because the A division had a lot of national team athletes, and we weren’t quite ready to compete there just yet,” said Sass.

“Ahead of the Boat Race, we will have an internal regatta where the different crews [from the university] will race each other. The Boat Race is the highlight of the calendar. It is everything we work towards because it is the big race. It emulates and copies the Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge in the UK.”

Sass added that Wits will be eyeing nothing less than a strong showing at the SA Champs but conceded that the club is going through an important revamping phase after suffering a knock during the later stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are currently rebuilding; recovering from the impact of Covid that affected us to the point that we had only about 10 members. So, it’s more about growth for us, but now that we’re starting to compete again, we want to be as competitive as possible.

“I put my money on the men’s team to shock the standings. We have a few prime athletes, most notably Patrizi and Westman, that, I think, could surprise in their races. Ultimately, the goal is to be competitive while we rebuild for Boat Race, where we’re aiming for the A or B finals.”

‘We will fight and give our all’ – Wits FC head coach

- Tshepiso Mametela

The Educated Footballers have had a rocky start to the 2022 season of the Varsity Football tournament with two draws and two losses thus far. The Witsies will look to come back stronger in the remaining matches of the season.

A 2-1 downing at the hands of North-West University (NWU) after leading the match by a solitary goal on the edge of halftime in their tournament opener, followed by a 1-1 stalemate away from home against UKZN, put the skids under Wits’ campaign early.

The side welcomed perennial arch-rivals University of Johannesburg (UJ), to a capacity-filled venue in their own back yard for a mouth-watering third outing with the hopes of earning bragging rights for the 2022 Varsity Football Joburg Derby. However, it was not to be as the Orange Army took all three points with a 2-0 victory against Wits after 90 minutes of end-to-end footballing action.

The Witsies then faced Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in an away fixture to draw 0-0, leaving Wits still needing their first win after four matches.

“It has not been the best start,” said Wits FC head coach Alzavian Van Rheede. Football is a game of chances. We haven’t capitalised on our chances throughout the tournament so far. We dropped two points in the game against TUT, who had one chance to score but kicked the ball over the crossbar. We hit the post twice, and in all fairness, their goalkeeper should have been the man of the match. He pulled off four massive saves. So, we take a lot of confidence from that performance, but we’re disappointed with the result. With three games remaining, we are going all out to win.”

Wits will take on VUT in the fifth round on 18 August 2022. Van Rheede commented on how the away team is expected play.

“Teams from Vaal enjoy the ball. They always have individuals that run with the ball and look to eliminate players in wide areas of the pitch,” said Van Rheede. They are a team standing in our way, and we desperately need the three points at the end of 90 minutes. That's all we want.”

The coach said the boys remain high spirited to turn the tide as his side eyes an improved campaign. He called on the student community to continue rooting for the Educated Footballers, whom he assured will spill their guts on the field to bag an elusive first win.

“Our boys know what's expected of them for the next game. If we can play with the same attitude, intensity, and character that we showed against TUT, we will be victorious. The message remains the same for everyone associated with Wits University. We will fight and give our all, in preparation and within the game. We know that our supporters will be with us. They have always been our 12th player, and we need that player now, more than ever.”

Wits shines spotlight on stalwart this Women’s Month

- Tshepiso Mametela

A community of administrators, coaches, sports officers, and athletes are not all that prop up the beams of Wits University’s successful student-centred sport department. Wits Sport celebrates a loyal foot soldier Takalani Mudau, who has drummed up twelve years with the Wits Sport department.

Mudau works as a facility attendant. She has been pivotal in ensuring that all Wits Sport Conference Centre venues, the setting for many glittering events and functions, are meticulously kept. “Mam’ Taka” as she is lovingly known, began her stint as a contract cleaner on the Wits main campus under Supercare in 2007, before moving to Wits Sport in 2010. She is now a full-time employee at Wits Sport.

“My journey has been amazing. It feels like yesterday when I joined the team. And I love how I have had different learning opportunities,” she said.

Mudau, the first of four siblings, grew up in rural Nzhelele in Dopeni, which is located in Venda, Limpopo where she walked long distances to get to school. She met her life partner in high school, with whom she tied the knot in 1996, three years after completing matric. The couple later moved to and settled in Johannesburg, where they had three children.

After her transition into married life and finding stable employment in 2010, the stalwart maintains she has seen a notable change in female sporting participation in her time at the university.

“I did not see women’s sport much back then; there were no opportunities,” said Mudau. “But recent years have proven that women can succeed at male-dominated sports, including boxing, cricket, football, and rugby. “I wish to see women in sport winning more trophies the same way that Banyana Banyana won the Women's Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) recently.

Mudau said she enjoys meeting and working with people from different walks of life. She went on to share some of the challenges she faced, which included putting in extra hours when the Wits Sport Conference Centre experienced back-to-back bookings.

Furthermore, she expressed her gratitude for the individuals around her. “We are a family; the staff are friendly and always willing to lend a hand when we need assistance,” she said, noting several challenges within her line of work. “We put in extra hours when there are many bookings. Despite this, we work as a team – to each of our strengths. This makes things easier and more efficient. “

With Women’s Month in full swing, Mudau, a football enthusiast at heart , appreciates the sport for the discipline and teamwork that it promotes. Mam Taka paid homage to all women, saying: “There are many opportunities for women now. It is our time. We must not look down on ourselves. Instead, we must be confident in reaching our goals. Banyana Banyana, who have done incredibly well, are an example of this. We must believe in ourselves and work together. Once we do that, everything will fall into place.”

“What I love about being a woman is that women are nurturers. We bring softness and beauty into the world. “Being featured in this women’s month special `feels great and I am grateful for the opportunity.”


Takalani Mudau - “Mam’ Taka”

Wits gamers secure bronze medal in maiden Ussa E-Sport showing

- Tshepiso Mametela

Three gaming teams from the newly-formed Wits E-Sport Club showed their grit at the recently-concluded 2022 USSA E-Sport Challenge at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The club, participating in its maiden virtual action tournament, entered a team each to fight it out in FIFA, Clash Royale and Rocket League competitions from 30 September to 2 October.

Twelve players from UCT, Wits, North-West University (NWU) and Stellenbosch University (Maties) took to the UCT Sports Centre Hall for the 1v1 Clash Royale.

Players split into groups where each participant played the opponent in their group an equal number of times. The first player to secure three wins from five games won, with Witsie Sean Mahlanza bagging fifth position overall.

In the Rocket League, Wits players Nkosinathi Mthimunye, Awande Dludla, Gabriel Nkole and Lebohang Sesing challenged players from UCT, Maties and Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT).

The league pitted the teams 3v3, with the final score determining the winner. In the end, the Witsies defeated MUT in the semi-finals for a bronze medal.

Wits fielded two players, Zach Buntman and Milani Ndidi, to compete in the FIFA segment.

The pair placed in joint-fifth position after Buntman lost 5-4 against a Maties player in the quarters, while Ndidi suffered a 6-0 aggregate loss in his knockout match against a player from CPUT.

The FIFA tournament comprised 36 players in the group stages and cut down to 16 players for the elimination stages.

“This was the first-ever USSA E-Sport tournament for Wits University after establishing the club in February,” said Wits Sport club manager Tebogo Rabothata.

He congratulated the Wits E-Sport Club on a strong showing, saying the experience boded well for the players.

“They needed the experience and the idea of what the tournament entails so they can start taking the sport seriously,” he said.

“It also provided an opportunity to improve for the university to do better next year and in future. It was a great show for the club, and the players did fairly well.”

Rabothata shared plans for the club to increase the profile of the recreational sport. “The plan is to establish an intervarsity league where clubs can register their respective teams to compete,” he added.

“I would like to establish a women’s team to transform the club and provide the Wits ladies with an opportunity to play the games.”

USSA launched the E-Sport Challenge in September 2019, where 12 universities partook in a FIFA knockout series at Stellenbosch University.

Wits ladies football star caps off dream start for Banyana Banyana

- Tshepiso Mametela

Wits Women’s Varsity Football defender Erin Herz made her debut for Banyana Banyana in the recent Hollywoodbets COSAFA Women’s Championship in Gqeberha on 31 August.

Banyana Banyana kicked off their hunt for an eighth title in the Southern African association football tournament with a 3-0 win against Angola on the opening day of the competition.

South Africa followed up that performance by cruising past Mauritius and Mozambique in their next two games in the group stages to secure a semi-final berth against Namibia.

Banyana made light work of The Mambas before lining up against Zambia in the final at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium on 11 September.

Herz, who enjoyed a dream first outing with the women’s national team, featured prominently at the tournament, taking to the pitch in four out of five matches for Banyana, including the final.

Reminiscing about her maiden international football experience, Herz said her contributions to the team matched the enormity of the occasion.

“It was incredible, fulfilling and just out of this world. A real dream come true,” said the 25-year-old who had a shot on target against Angola.

“We won 3-0. It was a near-perfect match for me, personally, and for the team.

“As a defender, I can celebrate the clean sheet in addition to the win, and I believe I contributed well and can be proud of my performance on debut.”

The fourth-year Bachelor of Education student, likely the first South African Jewish woman to play for Banyana Banyana, believes the tournament was the hosts’ to win.

South Africa’s Sinazo Ntshota struck the base of the post as she came close to giving her side the lead in the opening minutes of the final against Zambia.

“The loss was tough because we fought hard to get there and throughout the final. We held on brilliantly for so long, stretching to extra time,” added Herz.

“I think the game would have been ours had we scored the chance that hit the post in the opening minutes. I trusted our backline and came onto the field to contribute to blocking Zambia out, and we continued the good fight.

“Unfortunately, we were beaten by an amazing piece of athleticism by Zambian striker Barbra Banda, and we took that in our stride.”

The centre-back said she aspires to continue to be seen and selected to represent the national team.

“I intend to put my head down and push hard in every aspect of my game to increase my strengths and gain ground on the shortfalls I learned about through this experience.”