By Mark Etheridge
in Brazzaville, Congo
For the ‘karate kids’ in Team South Africa’s African Games squad it is very much a case of keeping it in the family.
The squad of 17 features not one but two family connections! Father and son team Stefano and Silvio Cerrone-Biagionio are joined by brother and sister Ian and Meghan Booyens.
And true to form the karate gang exhibit very much a family, sticking together, kidding around wherever they go, and never far away from another informal game of what they term ‘ninja’.
Cape Town based coach Jody Young, with some input from manager Humphrey Skosana shared his thoughts with what could be expected from the code.
‘A lot of it is down to the draw but I would say a realistic target would be around 10 medals from this group… worst case scenario would be half of that a best case, well who really knows?
‘Egypt are undoubtedly the side to beat. They’re the continent’s top karate nation and are in the world’s top three..
‘I’d think we are about the same level as Algeria while there are also good fighters from Senegal and the host nation Congo.’
As for so many South African sporting codes, the problem is that of a geographic nature with SA being the southernmost country on the continent and far away from the combative European scene where so many of the north African countries base their fighters.
It’s also a case of time spent training together.
‘I’ve gone around the country to some of the guys and girls but we’ve only had two full training sessions since May. Compare that to someone like Egypt who have been training together daily for the last four to six weeks.’
The squad will take part in individual and team kata and individual and team kumite.
Just one woman will take part in individual kata, that’s the Western Cape’s little Maxine Willemse where it looks like she’s in definite medal contention as she’s the continent’s second ranked karateke after coming second at African Championships in Senegal.
The team features a nice mixture of experienced and up and coming karatake. In the men’s team Balungile Ncofe and Sandile Makwali are both rather untested at this level while the same goes for first-timer Noloyiso Bonga in the women’s line-up.
The karate code will get stuck into action from Monday onwards.
Team captains are Morgan Moss and Meghan Booyens.