By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s top badminton aces are in Mauritius having just competed at the Rose Hill International and now staying on for the Thomas Cup preliminaries.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games doubles pairing of Wiaan Wiljoen and Andries Malan won the doubles competition in Mauritius.
And the top seeds victory, a straight sets 21-18 21-18 victory against second-seeded Algerians Mohamad A Belarbi and Adel Hamek was something of a milestone achievement.
Explained national coach Chris Dednam: ‘Wiaan and Andries’s doubles win means they’ve completed their required 10 tournaments for Olympic world ranking points. The next two months they’re going to play a few more tournaments to replace their lowest points.
‘A maximum of 10 counts towards world ranking. So now they must do better than the 10 results they have to replace those points and thereby move up on the world ranking.’
South Africa’s team for the Thomas Cup prelims is Viljoen and Malan along with top-ranked Jacob Maliekal, Prakash Vijayanath and new cap Cameron Coetzer.
‘The winning team from Africa will then participate in the finals in China,’ said Dednam.
China-based Maliekal didn’t play the Rose Hill tournament as the points on offer weren’t enough to benefit him.
Also at the Rose Hill International, South Africa’s Nita Scholtz took part in the women’s singles division.
‘She lost in the final but is only 16 and played to gain experience. We’re looking at her with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in mind,’ said Dednam.
Scholtz who was part of the SA team that competed at the World Junior Championships in Lima, Peru last year, went down to top-seeded Bridget Shamim Bangi of Uganda in the final, losing in three sets, 21-7 20-22 21-15.
For the Thomas Cup prelims South Africa are drawn in Group A alongside hosts Mauritius, Zimbabwe and Reunion.