The Madibaz cycling team will be among nine sporting codes from NMMU vying for gold at the University Sport South Africa championships over the next fortnight.
The Bestmed-Shukuma outfit, who are the defending champions in the team category, will compete in Stellenbosch from June 29 to July 2.
Cycling manager Theresa le Roux said Marinus Prinsloo, who took the top spot on the individual podium last year, and first-year rider Christiaan van Aardt were their best solo medal contenders.
“We have a smaller squad this year, though, so we are hoping to at least come back with a medal in the team category,” said Le Roux.
The Madibaz dominated in the team category at the student champs last year to take one over from 2013 defending champions Tuks at the University of Pretoria.
Le Roux said that because the tournament would be held in Stellenbosch this year Maties would be the strongest competition for the NMMU side.
“They also have a team of eight riders which will give them an advantage in a three-day stage tour.”
Most of their riders also form part of the Lights by Linea Pro team in Cape Town.
“Tukkies is also always a very strong team and I’m sure they will come out in full force after losing to us last year by nearly eight minutes,” said Le Roux.
She said that other teams to watch would be the University of Cape Town and Pukke.
The Billabong surfers are first up in a three-day competition at the iconic Victoria Bay just outside George from July 26.
Last year’s women’s and men’s individual champions Roxy Giles and Jean du Plessis will be looking to anchor the institution’s assault on the all-important team category.
Giles’ main opposition will come from Varsity College’s Nicole Pallet and University of Cape Town’s Anna Notten, while Varsity College’s Wade Simkiss and Stellenbosch’s Shawn Joubert will be looking to dethrone Du Plessis.
Although the men’s team was triumphant last year, the women’s team finished in the runner-up spot behind the UCT surfers, who also scooped the overall crown.
Meanwhile, the Mecer men’s hockey team are focused on going one better from June 26 to July 3 in Pietermaritzburg after placing second behind the University of Johannesburg last year.
They are boosted by national players Chad Cairncross and Dalan Phillips, who took part in a test series against Austria in January, and Ignatius Malgraff, who represented South Africa at the Hockey World League second-round qualifiers in March.
Squash manager Zanele Mdodana said she was confident that the team could wrest the title from the University of Pretoria in Johannesburg next week.
“We definitely plan on taking the USSA title this year. The guys have been training hard and have been performing so well this season.”
The women’s basketball team are unbeaten in the USSA and District leagues in the Eastern Cape and will be hoping to carry that form through to Durban from June 29 to July 3. They have their sights set on leap-frogging into the top five after finishing 13th last year.
The volleyballers, who are coached by professional player Jonas Schroeder, will enjoy home ground advantage as they aim to improve on their status as rank outsiders at NMMU’s South Campus from June 29 to July 3.
The netball squad also have their work cut out for them if they are to make it into the semi-finals after finishing fifth last year, while the KPMG-sponsored golfers will strive to win the B-section to ensure two teams in the top section for 2016.
Deputy director of sport Riaan Osman said the USSA championships were important as they also served as qualifiers for the Varsity Sports competitions.
“We invest a large chunk of our budgets in preparing and sending teams to these events to ensure our students are provided with an opportunity to compete at a high level against their peers.”
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