Rowers outclassed


The Wits men’s rowing team returned from the year’s biggest university boat race empty-handed. Photo:

The WITS men’s rowing team was blown out of the water at the prestigious Mutual and Federal University Boat Race held on the Kowie River in Port Alfred, Eastern Cape, last week.

The university had also failed to put together a women’s team.

The A boat – the university’s top eight rowers – did not do well in the heats and only qualified for the C final, a race-off for the fifth and sixth positions.

Stevan Johnson, 1st year BA Law, said he and his team mates were beaten by Rhodes by about two boat lengths in that final.

The Wits B boat – the university’s next best group of rowers – only qualified for the E final, a race-off for seventh, eighth and ninth positions.

Johnson said Wits won that final, beating Stellenbosch and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) by about 3 boat lengths.

The team’s coach, Advocate Alex Pullinger, was unable to travel to Port Alfred as he was in court but said the team performed reasonably well.

He said it was important to put the team’s performance in context and to consider the level of the University of Pretoria (Tukkies), University of Cape Town and University of Johannesburg (UJ) crews, which took the top three positions.

“Most of the Tukkies oarsmen are international oarsmen and some were coming back from a gold medal performance at the Olympics.”

Pullinger was referring to Tukkies rower Matthew Brittain, who recently won gold in the men’s lightweight coxless four event in  London.

Pullinger said the UJ oarsmen were also of international calibre.

Speaking about the A crew, Pullinger said: “It wasn’t a bad paddle. The guys rowed well and executed their game plan according to my understanding.”

He said the B crew had also performed well considering that they had not rowed together often before the competition.

Pullinger said he was disappointed that Wits was not represented in the women’s competition.

“It’s very sad for me. I spent a lot of time developing a women’s crew. Unfortunately, for various reasons, they were unavailable. Some of them have also decided to take a break from rowing.

“There’s not a huge amount of your top girl rowers leaving school and attending Wits or rowing beyond school.”

 He said Wits should work hard to attract such students.