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Wheelchair stars back on track

The Sasol South Africa Wheelchair Basketball squad’s bid for a World Cup spot at the Africa World Cup Qualifiers is back on track and the focus now is success in the two games against Morocco ahead of Saturday’s final.

South Africa suffered an unexpected 71-68 defeat at the hands of Algeria on Sunday, but the home side beat Angola 88-29 on Monday and notched their second win with a 101-31 drubbing of Kenya at the Mandeville Indoor Stadium on Tuesday.

The local favourites owned the game from the first whistle. They finished the first quarter with a 23-6 lead and after extending the advantage to 55-14 at half-time, national coach Viv Sierra began alternating players to rehearse plays and combinations for their upcoming matches against Morocco.

Seventeen-year-old rookie Kyle Louw from Bloemfontein sunk his first international basket to the thunderous applause of his team mates and the effervescent Richard Nortje dropped 22 baskets to raise his tournament goal tally to 64.

ÔÇ£Losing to Algeria was a rude awakening, but we moved on immediately and focused on ironing out the mistakes.” said Sierra. ÔÇ£In the games against Angola and Kenya we’ve had a chance to work on combinations, test our plays and generally raise the spirits in the camp. We will have one more chance to give all the boys court time against Zimbabwe on Wednesday, but the real test lays ahead against Morocco.ÔÇØ

After the North African country went down 65-48 to Algeria on Tuesday, the home side will face them in Thursday’s round robin game, and again in the semi-final on Friday, while Algeria play Angola in the semis.

With the SA squad’s chinks mended, Sierra and his wards have a pretty good idea of how to topple mighty Morocco. ÔÇ£They are a dangerous team because they are very unpredictable,ÔÇØ said David Curle. ÔÇ£The only thing we know for sure is that they will throw everything at us and we will have to come out strong in the first match.ÔÇØ

Whether South Africa or Morocco win on Thursday makes no difference to the line up for the semi-finals, but Nortje believes they need to draw first blood to gain the psychological advantage ahead of the semis.

ÔÇ£We saw their vulnerability against Algeria; they got tired, the altitude caught up with them in the third quarter and they let Algeria in the door,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£I believe our best games are yet to come, but at this point, there is very little room for error and we can’t afford to get complacent at all. We will go all out for both wins, whatever it takes.ÔÇØ

In the third game on Tuesday, Angola beat Zimbabwe 49-41.

Third round results: Angola 49 Zimbabwe 41, Algeria 65 Morocco 48, South Africa 101 Kenya 31