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SA’s young stars arrive

Team South Africa arrived safely in Swaziland for the Zone VI Games to be greeted with a typical African thunderstorm with plenty of thunder and lightning on Thursday.

The contingent of more than 200 athletes and officials will be hoping to make just as much of a bang as they go about defending their No1 sporting status in the region at these Under-20 Games, writes Mark Etheridge.

They easily won the last edition of the games in Potchefstroom two years ago and are again favourites to bring home the honours.

The week-long Games open officially on Saturday and feature seven sports, competed for by the 10 southern African nations.

Chef de Mission Nombusa Gumbi was in Swaziland for the team’s arrival and the team spent the day being accredited by their friendly hosts and moved into their accommodation, spartan but adequate at this stage, at the Swaziland University.

One of the first sports to be contested is men’s basketball and SA have been put in the group of death with Angola, Mozambique and Namibia.

As coach Zithulele “Terry” Nxumalo explained: “Angola and Mozambique are ranked first and second here and we’re third so it didn’t really make sense to have us all in the same group. But we went to the continental branch of FIBA, the international body, and they’ve agreed to include quarter-finals after the group state.

‘It still means that we can’t afford to finish lower than third so we’ll be looking for an upset to ease the pressure. Our goal is just to make the final, it’s anyone’s game from there.”

The team will be captained by Wits University’s Selepe Lebesa, the team’s No1 guard player and one of five Central Gauteng players in the line-up. As matters stand they’ve only had a week’s training to find their feet and will be hoping to hit the ground running.

Late on Thursday organisers were still making frantic last minute adjustments to the opening ceremony as well as programming. Also scheduled to be in action on Saturday are the men’s footballers.