The results may not have gone their way, but Team Sasol South Africa certainly learnt a number of good lessons from their performances at the Easter Tournament in Blankenberge, Belgium this past week.
While they may not have won a game in the tournament, which included world champions Australia and top six countries Canada, Italy and the Netherlands, coach Patrick Fick’s mantra of playing the best to prepare themselves for the waiting challenge at the London 2012 Paralympics later this year certainly has borne fruits among the team.
After a tough week, when star player Luvuyo Mbanda’s chair was damaged on the flight over by the airline, a situation which hampered their preparations before the start of the tournament, to the shoulder injury in game one of Richard Nortje, their only professional player, Team Sasol South Africa certainly battled through adversity to show grit and determination on an unforgiving court.
So much so that they gave their best performance against the Italians, who finished fourth in the World Championships, and even outscored them in the final quarter of the late night match on Saturday.
Fick was happy with the character shown by his team, who had only started their preparations in Belgium after a five month lay-off, as opposed to the other teams, who had come off intense training camps in Europe.
ÔÇ£The guys gained a lot of experience and a number of guys realized they need to step up and play at that level. We lost Richard and we didn’t have one of our most experienced guys ÔÇô Marius Papenfus ÔÇô on the tour and the problems with Luvuyo’s chair also didn’t help us,ÔÇØ said Fick.
ÔÇ£But instead of thinking we’re in a black hole, the guys bonded together and said we’ll get out of it. We need to build on that now and take this experience and make it productive.ÔÇØ
The team will spend some time now in camp with French coach Frank Belen, who took his team to number two in the world, before facing Egypt at the end of the month in South Africa in their next preparation match.
ÔÇ£The nice thing about the adversity we’ve had is that we’ve seen the guys sharing the load and even Richard has led both on and off the court. ┬áA lot of the guys have had a good tournament and will be stronger now that they’ve had more overseas experience.ÔÇØ
Team SASOL South Africa qualified for London 2012 by winning the African Qualifying Championship in Morocco last October.