By Mark Etheridge
The national Sevens Rugby side finally provided Team South Africa with some much needed inspiration in their medal quest Friday as the 2009 World Games started building to a climax in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.
Playing in Pool A, South African won all three of their round robin games, beating hosts Chinese Taipei 27-0 in their first match, edging Portugal 7-5 and then easily accounting for the United States 26-7.
SA finished top of their pool and now meet Hong Kong in their quarter-final on Saturday. Argentina scored an upset 17-7win over two-time World Games champions Fiji in their pool match and now play USA in their quarters clash. That leaves Fiji to play the hosts ChineseTapei who have fanatical hometown support.
Cape Town’s Ryno Benjamin was the form-man of the SA challenge, scoring two tries against both Chinese Taipei and the US.
The match against Portugal was played in abysmal conditions with hot rain lashing down on the players. It proved a great leveller and the South Africans had to tackle their hearts out against a more than useful Portugese side.
Also upping the tempo were the waterskiing faction out at Lotus Pond. Friday was the penultimate day of the waterskiing code.
Said waterski manager Eugene Sam: “Despite some storms in the morning, today was the best day for competition. Barefoot skiier Heinrich (Sam) is in three finals and Andre De Villiers in two.
“Heinrich will compete in the barefoot slalom, tricks and jumps final and Andre in the slalom and jump final. Shaun Faccio is in the semi-final of the waveboarding as well.”
“You only get certificates for the individual categories but in the overall medal stakes in waterskiing I would go so far as to say that the worst we can do is get a bronze. But I think it will be better than that…”
In the pool back in the city, South African lifesavers were involved in a number of B finals, best result coming from Barjo van Niekerk who won the men’s 100-metre rescue medley ahead of countryman Armand Marais.
Marais also won the men’s 100m mannikin carry event with Barjo taking fourth.
Of the women, Cape Town’s Jade Antunes took fourth in the 100m mannikin carry with fellow Capetonian Eloise van Gysen fifth and Durban’s Jayne Broderick sixth. In the 100m rescue medley, Guinivere Rogers was fifth and Broderick seventh.
Saturday sees a switch from pool to surf and South Africa are expected to be way more competitive in the ocean.
The dance sports and gymnastic discliplines weren’t too productive with Cape Town’s Matthew Levy finishing a distant eighth and last in the aerobic gymnastics (14.275 points to Russian winner Mircea Zamfir’s 20.900) and ball-room dancing duo Clinton Soules and Meagan Kleinhans (also Cape Town) making it through the first round of 24 but going out at the last 18 stage.
“They were up against the 12 best dancers in the world,” said team official Chris Bulpitt. “To be competitive in this arena you have to compete internationally. This is their first international this year while their opponents would have competed in five or six internationals already.”
Saturday features Latin-American couple Otile Mabuse and Keokantse Motsepe and Bulpitt expects them to go further than the ball-room dancers.
Also in action today will be Potchefstroom powerlifter Johan Smith in the 90kg division. The big question is whether he has recovered from a gruelling trans-Indian Ocean flight from SA, only having arrived on Thursday due to Craven Week rugby commitments.
The Games end on Sunday with Durban’s big Brian Green muscling up in the 125kg category of the powerlifting.