Vodacom Challenge kicks off Beijing campaign

South Africa’s 2008 Paralympic wheelchair basketball team is to be finalised after the Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge.

The Vodacom Mandeville Indoor Centre in Johannesburg played host to five days of world-class wheelchair basketball during the last week of November. The SA national selectors used the tournament to gauge players’ performance ahead of the African Nations Cup in Algeria this year, and the Beijing Paralympics in 2008.

The challenge saw four teams take part, with the South African national squad of 25 split up into a Vodacom Green and Vodacom Gold selection, and joined by the South Africa Under-23 team, and Angola. The Angolans also played matches against club sides the Pumas, Lions and Discovery Eagles, as part of their South African tour.

The Green and Gold selections included top local players taking part in the SuperSport Wheelchair Basketball Series. However, players contracted to overseas clubs did not return home for what were essentially trial matches. However, they will still be considered for selection.

Blade-runners star Richard Nortje was playing in Italy, David Curle from the Pumas was in Spain, while Nick Taylor of the Eagles made Australia his home in the off-season.

South African national coach Viv Sierra coached the Vodacom Green selection, while the national Under-23 coach, Naftal Chongo, handled the Vodacom Gold side.

According to Sierra, the Challenge games have enabled him and his selectors to assess talent ahead of the African Nations Cup, a tournament that acts as a qualifier for the Beijing Paralympics. “I have settled on the majority of my squad, but there are about three places up for grabs,” he said. “I really want to have a look at the youngsters like Malcolm Chinian and Odingwe Mdingi from the Eagles and Luvuyo Mbanda from the Lions.”

“Vodacom have supported us from grassroots all the way to national level. Without their support, our players wouldn’t be exposed to international competition, which is crucial in the build up to the Beijing Paralympics,” said WBSA head Charles Saunders. He saw the Challenge as a great success in preparing the players for Beijing.

WBSA Vodacom Challenge Results

SA Vodacom Gold versus SA Vodacom Green
Game 1: Gold 51 - Green 58
Game 2: Gold 64 - Green 52South Africa Under-23’s versus Angola
Game 1: U23’s 74 - Angola 36
Game 2: U23’s 82 - Angola 23

Alternating wins with narrow margins indicate that the two SA teams were evenly matched in both games. The Under-23 team totally dominated the Angolan side in both of its games. The selectors have their work cut out!

 

 

 

Thandile Zonke (SA 11) shoots at the basket while Angolan defenders struggle to block him. Willie Mulder (SA 14) dribbles towards the Angolan basket.

 

 

Eduardo Sampaio (Angola 7) passes while Luvuyo Mbanda (SA 12) defends his side of the court. Manuel Jamba ( Angola 13) concentrates on defending his shot at the basket while Etienne Buys (SA 6) stalks him.

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