The Sasol-sponsored South African National wheelchair basketball team returned from the All Africa Games carrying glittering silver trophies and gold medals. SA had dominated the teams from Kenya (93-30), Cameroon (107-6), Nigeria (97-37) and Egypt (59-37). At the Paralympic Games qualifiers held in Rabat a week later, SA took a narrow 68-61 win over the Moroccan host team to grab the single available Africa spot for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Team captain Marius Papenfus was justifiably thrilled with his players’ performances, considering that daytime temperatures in Algiers frequently topped 40Â° C.
“Our preparation was good and the combinations worked. Our guys all played well.” Said Papenfus. He said that the recent tour by the Netherlands WB team helped to motivate the SA players, this despite the stifling heat. “The accommodation facilities and transport were not great, but Algiers had a nice stadium.”
For the Olympic qualifier against Morocco at the Omnisports stadium in Rabat, the SA team had to contend with partisan spectators. “The crowd was a little intimidating,” says Papenfus. “But winning gold in Algiers gave us a real boost for the qualifier. Big thanks to the sponsors, Sasol which means everything is taken care of and the players don’t have to worry about anything. When asked by a reporter if SA would win gold in Beijing, Papenfus said the team was aiming to get into the top 8 in China next year. “If we can make that, it would be quite an achievement.”