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Kruger joins Cape challenge for Dusi

The strongest Western Cape challenge to the Dusi Canoe Marathon in decades has added a new dimension to the three-day race that start at Camps Drift on Thursday, with genuine podium threats coming from numerous crews making up the Cape storm heading for KwaZulu-Natal shores in the coming days.

Lead by Fish Hoek’s surfski star and regular river marathon dark horse Jasper Mock├®, some of Cape Town’s finest paddlers have joined the large Dusi field, with some of them gambling on a short phase of Dusi training, and in some cases embarking on brand new K2 combinations for the race.

Last year’s Berg River Canoe Marathon sensation Ivan Kruger (Pink Apple, pictured right, is the latest to have thrown his name into the Cape’s Dusi challengers’ pot after answering an emergency last minute call from fellow under-23 talent Andrew Houston.

ÔÇ£On the 31st of January I woke up to a Whatsapp message from Andrew (Houston) saying that his previous partner Murray Haw was sick and unable to take part in Dusi and asking if I was keen to paddle Dusi with him,ÔÇØ explained Kruger animatedly.

ÔÇ£So I call Andrew back and asked him what this was all about. He said to me that everything was sorted and that I just needed to get to Durban and race with him.

ÔÇ£He said, ‘I think we can try for a top ten, are you keen?’. I told him to forget about this top ten stuff and focus on just finishing,ÔÇØ chuckled Kruger.

Without having even sat in a river kayak since the 2013 Hansa Fish in September and coming off a well-deserved break over the festive period, Kruger has little idea of what to expect from himself and from the brand new partnership.

ÔÇ£I met Andrew for the first time on Saturday (8 February). We jumped into the boat and surprisingly things weren’t too bad. We didn’t lean or anything, which was a big relief,ÔÇØ said Kruger.

ÔÇ£I’m not nervous, I don’t really get nervous before a race. I’m definitely excited but I just have no clue what to expect!

ÔÇ£I’ve just come off my off-season. Fortunately I’ve been doing quite a bit of mountain biking, cross training, a little bit of surfski paddling and a bit of trail running so my fitness isn’t too bad but who knows how I’ll go on the portages?

ÔÇ£Andrew is incredibly fit at the moment and after chatting to a couple of people they told me that I should just give him the boat to run with,ÔÇØ laughed Kruger.

Kruger is no stranger to the iconic event from Pietermaritzburg to Durban having clinched the junior boys title and a top 20 overall finish with Gavin Shuter in 2010. It has however been some time since the young talent took to the waters of the uMngeni and uMsundusi Rivers and so will leave the driving to his partner this time around.

ÔÇ£I prefer sitting in the front of the boat but we had a quick discussion on Saturday and we decided Andrew definitely knows the river and the lines far better than I do so he’ll drive. With Andrew being the stronger runner though I’ll run in front.ÔÇØ

Along with Mock├®, Kruger joins a plethora of Cape Town stars set to make the pilgrimage up to KZN from the Western Cape for this year’s race.

Anna Notten and Kim van Gysen will look to take on the somewhat better prepared women’s crews while the recently relocated Brandon van der Walt (Kayak Racing/Team Jeep) and Kirsten Flanagan will be top contenders in the mixed doubles division.

Like Mock├®, Simon van Gysen will also join a KZN paddling partner for this year’s event when he and Craig Turton take on the challenge. Turton and Mock├® were the previous K2 year’s dark horse combination as they raced their way to an impressive fifth place and for much of the clash were considered strong podium contenders.

Eloise Horn will partner former Durbanite and now Johannesburg resident Donna Tutton for this year’s Dusi while 2013 Berg top five finisher, Louw van Riet (AQ Rate), pairs up with his cousin,┬áErnest van Riet (sons of former Western Cape and SA paddling legends, Willem and Roelof van Riet respectively ÔÇô and former winners of the Dusi) and will hope they can challenge for a top 30 position.

Kruger believes the increase in Cape interest in the event is something that has steadily developed in recent years as more and more Capetownians look to be a part of the iconic event.

“This will probably be the most Capetownians at the Dusi in many years,” said Kruger. “I think more and more guys from down here (Western Cape) have caught onto the fact that Dusi is a great way to kick off the year as it really gets you going after the off-season.”

Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media