By Mark Etheridge
Team South Africa have five para-bowlers in their line-up for the Commonwealth Games in Scotland later this month.
And the quintet are in line to bring back a medal or two from Glasgow.
Our para-athletes feature in the Visually Impaired mixed pairs section and the trips category of the Physically Disabled.
Flying the flag in the pairs are Gwyn Nel and Herman Scholtz and their directors will be Geoff Newcombe and Annatjie van Rooyen respectively. Nel is from Port Elizabeth and Scholtz from Pretoria.
Bowls manager Brian Sneag explains how it works: “Well, our visually impaired bowlers fall under the B2/3 classification which means that they do have some sight capability.
“The director’s role is to basically stand in front of the bowlers, at a distance that they can still be seen, this could be five metres or less. And then the bowler will attempt to fixate on perhaps the foot of the director, whichever works better.
“A director has to be very sharp to be able to work out the distance and then relay that info to the bowler and then give them the ‘grass’ or distance. Then he’ll describe the distance as though one were reading a watch. So, if he said, for instance ‘five o’clock ÔÇô a metre’ that would mean that the wood just been played by the previous bowler is in that position ÔÇô just short of the jack and to the right-hand side.”
The other component of the para-bowls team are the physically disabled trips, made up by Derrick Lobban (cerebral palsy), Roger Hagerty (amputee) and Deon van der Vyver (wheelchair).
“Some of the wheelchair guys have pushers but the ruling is that if you’re in an international competition the pusher has to be from a neutral country or else he or she may provided illegal assistance to the bowler. Deon won’t need a pusher.”
Lobban and Hagerty hail from Morningside, Johannesburg and Van der Vyver lives in East London.
Sneag reckons the trips have the toughest task to end up on the podium. “The visually impaired section has eight countries, with two pools of four but in the trips the pool that South Africa have drawn is a real pool of death. There are only three teams in the pool, Australia, New Zealand and us and the first two go through to the semi-finals so you just can’t afford to lose. And Australia already have the advantage of practising in Scottish conditions right now.”
But Sneag is nevertheless still confident of success. “Both Gwyn and Herman have won world singles titles over the years.”
One thing’s for sure and that’s if Sneag has his way, the teams will be dressed for success.
“People say I’m fussy about outfits and things but my motto has always been: “If you look good, you feel good and you play good.”
It doesn’t need saying that a Commonwealth medal handing around the neck of our bowlers in Scotland will look exceptionally good!