Team SASOL South Africa endured a tough start to their Easter Tournament in Blankenberge, Belgium on Friday, going down 76-35 to Canada in their opening game.
It was a particularly disappointing result for coach Patrick Fick but understandable as the side hasn’t played in five months and Canada are ranked sixth in the world at the moment.
The South Africans have had a particularly tough run-into the tournament, as one of their players Luvuyo Mbanda’s wheelchair was damaged by the airline on the flight over and they have had to rotate chairs in their preparations, which hasn’t been ideal.
After matching the Canadians in the opening quarter, where they were behind 18-10, the team started making unforced errors as they fell further behind 30-18 by half time.
In the second half they lost playmaker and star Richard Nortje to exhaustion and a shoulder injury, which gave Canada the edge they needed to pull away in the third quarter to a 55-26 lead.
South Africa played their ÔÇ£smallÔÇØ combination in the final quarter, before allowing the entire bench a run as the minutes wound down, eventually ending up on the wrong side of a relatively big loss.
Afterwards Fick was disappointed, especially with a tougher match against Holland later tonight on the cards. ÔÇ£We had a couple of decent patches in the game, especially at the start, when we pressed them hard, but we made too many turnovers and didn’t look after the ball well,ÔÇØ said Fick.
ÔÇ£Our unforced errors cost us and we still make way too many mental mistakes in a game, like throwing the ball to someone who isn’t looking, and these mental breakdowns cost us big time.ÔÇØ
The loss of Nortje, the team’s only professional player, was particularly devastating as he will have to miss the game against the Netherlands this evening.
ÔÇ£In the second half I could see Richard was running out of steam and was struggling with an injury. He won’t play tonight so that will put extra pressure on our ÔÇ£bigsÔÇØ ÔÇô bigger players- like Stuart Jellows and Jaco Veljoen.
The tournament will see South Africa also face world champions Australia and the highly fancied Italy this weekend as part of their ongoing preparations for the London 2012 Paralympics.
South Africa booked their place for London in October last year by winning the African qualifier against Morocco and Egypt.