TENNIS: Advanced players go toe to toe 

Wits university’s advanced tennis team played in the intra-Wits club championship, pitting the very best against one another in a fast-paced tournament. 

Seth Thorne (21), honours in journalism student and Wits Vuvuzela journalist, put down his pen and notebook on May 13, 2023 and picked up his tennis racquet to compete and win the internal championship.  

It was a long way to the top for players, needed to play and win eight matches to get to the final. The semi-finals saw Thorne beat Ciaran Swartz with a score of 6-1,6-2 while Roberto Da Silva beat Salmaan Bhatti, who withdrew his second set as he was suffering from fatigue and the overall score was 6-0. 

Bozzoli tennis court was the stage for the David and Goliath battle between finalists Thorne and Da Silva, Wits’ number one player on 2022.  

In the final, Thorne won the first set of the finals, 4-3, after long and good rallies. Da Silva fought back in the second set, which ended in a tiebreak.  

The tiebreaker was short, but filled with intense saves from either side of the court. Thorne ended the set with a win, with a score of 6-4,4-6,10-6. 

Thorne played defensively and minimized unforced errors to ensure consistent wins set after set. He also made sure that he gets every ball back with good positioning so that he puts his opponent under pressure to make mistakes, which worked in his favour.  

Roberto Da Villa throwing the ball in the air, about to serve his opponent at in the tournament.

Da Silva said, “it was nice playing with Seth for a change. The game was very intense, and emotionally and mentally challenging, especially playing the icebreaker”. 

The champion claimed prioritising fun over winning was the key to success, “I was able to play so much better” in that mindset he said. 

Spectator, Neo Matutuane said, “The games were interesting, some of the scores don’t reflect how close the matches were.”  

“What I’ve seen today from the players is courage, strength, determination, and resilience. Our finalists are dedicated club members and have shown that to preparations leading to the tournament,” stated the chairperson of the team, Connel Manhica. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Thorne after getting a point in the finals. Photo: Boitumelo Masalesa


Wits mountain club invites public to chalk up

The club launched an open climbing event to attract climbers and non-climbers alike, to try their hand at indoor rock climbing.

On Tuesday, May 2, the mountain club opened the indoor-climbing wall to all in the launch of a tournament that is open to the public, but the public didn’t show.

The bouldering league is taking place for the first time in three years at the multi-purpose sports hall on Wits main campus. According to Uwais Khan (22), the administrative head of the club, the event used to be an annual occurrence. This changed at the onset of the pandemic of 2020, preventing large events from happening by law.

Wits Mountain club members and alumni climb the indoor rock-climbing wall in the open boulder league on May 2 at the multi-purpose sports hall. Photo: Kimberley Kersten

The turnout for the event was dismal, with only a handful of Wits alumni joining the club in facing the wall. Khan said it is to be expected, “It’s the first event after the long weekend,” but he is optimistic that the numbers will improve as the tournament goes on. The league will continue twice a week for four weeks, entries remain will reopen until the 11th of May for those who want to win prizes (vouchers to City Rock climbing center).

The event costs visitors R50 to enter per evening, funds raised will go to the Dawson fund, a Wits fund which pays for expenses for those interested in climbing but who cannot afford it. “The major goal is to increase the diversity of climbing” said Jonothan Faller (21), chair of the club.

The club also opened the event up to everyone to build back the support for the sport which has been waning for a few years now. Faller said that the club hopes to hold a national university competition at the end of 2023, which would be the first in “a very long time”.

Bouldering is climbing which does not use protective gear. Faller told Wits Vuvuzela that this type of climbing is made up of complicated courses that don’t reach dizzying heights, but rely on problem solving skills as well as creativity in scaling the wall.

Lea Timmermans (22), a climber from the mountain club, said, “I entered to see how much I’ve improved [since joining the club this year]” and added that it’s an interesting challenge.

A climber prepares to take on the sixth course of the league on Tuesday May 2 at the multi-purpose sports hall. Photo: Kimberley Kersten.

FEATURED IMAGE: A climber chalks up her hands before climbing the indoor wall on May 2 at the multi-purpose sports hall. Photo: Kimberley Kersten.


#Ashies2023: Wits Bucks balling differently 

 The 17th Ashraf Lodewyk Memorial Basketball tournament returns with ten more teams vying for the win.  

The Wits Bucks (first team) put on a stellar performance in their first Ashraf basketball tournament game on Wednesday afternoon, April 26.  

The Wits Bucks faced off against Wanderers Scorpions Omega and led the game comfortably from the beginning with a thrilling win of 67-28 when the final whistle blew.  

Scorpions Omega’s Ethan Murray was substituted after committing three fouls in the first half of the game. Assistant coach, Thabo Gumede said that he felt like there was a lack of communication and defence on their end.

Wits Bucks player Jacques Mahanga said, “I feel like their [Scorpions Omega] performance was really good; we didn’t underestimate the team although we knew that we’re not at the same level-we still came out with a lot of intensity, and I love our intensity.” 

Wits Bucks player Isira Harisinghe getting ready to strike after being trapped by a Scorpions Omega defender. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

Wits Bucks fan, Keeyanda Tshipamba said, “It was a very good game for Wits especially in light of their performance in the ICSL internal league, they were not doing so well so this is bringing our spirits up.” 

The Bucks are not anticipating easy games especially since the tournament has grown with a total of ten more teams compared to last year’s 30. Teams compete in either the men’s or women’s division, with a further division into four pools (A to D) which will battle it out over the eight-day tournament. 

With four more games to play, the Bucks need to secure the top two positions in their pool to compete in the finals on Monday, May 1. 

 Young Bucks trailing behind  

A few courts away, the Wits Young Bucks (the second team) lost 45-55, in their first game against the Midrand Heat Basketball Club.  

A game which was meant to be their comeback against UJ Orange Wave on April 26, ushered in a crushing defeat, with a final score of 19-44.  

Going into the second half, UJ was leading 22-11 while Wits player Silas Lyuke, was substituted after a clash with the opponents, leading to a leg injury. The UJ side committed a foul against Matoti Buthelezi and was consequently awarded two free throws, but only netting one.  

UJ coach, Mandla Ngema said, “We didn’t play well at all, we thought it was gonna be easy playing against a second team.” 

Whilst Wits Young Bucks assistant coach, Angelo Quinn said to Wits Vuvuzela, “I felt it was a good game and a good reflection of the [Ashraf] program and it showed that we can compete at a higher level.” 

The Young Bucks have three more games to play in their pool (C) and two of them will be played on Saturday, April 29 against Giant Ballers and University of Pretoria 1st.  

FEATURE IMAGE: Wits Bucks players: Tirivashe Gapara, Jacques Mahanga and Chirag Jashi, congratulating each other after their 67-28 win against Wanderers Scorpions Omega. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov


Wits Tennis serves up ace tournament 

The university’s first-team tennis players came out on top in the intra-Wits club championship. 

First-team player Loyiso Kole captured his second intra-Wits men’s singles title after defeating teammate Ciaran Swartz 6 –3, 7 –5. His first was in 2021. 

With nine total breaks-of-serve between the two, Swartz managed to save three match points, however, Kole converted the fourth with his signature serve-and-volley play. “I could place my volleys well today,” said Kole. “It got to a point where I really counted on them.” 

Another first-team player, Justine du-Pont, took the women’s singles title after winning all three of her matches in the round-robin format (everyone plays everyone).  Du-Pont captured her second title of the day in the women’s doubles, with teammate Jesse Platt, after defeating Joanne Joseph and Isabella Weber, 6 – 0, 6 – 0. 

Women’s singles and doubles champion du-Pont dropped only six games in her four matches. “My forehands and serves were really solid.” she said. 

In total, three competitions were run over the weekend of April 1 and 2 by the Wits Tennis Club. Participants consisted of 10 prospective and current first team players. There were several withdrawals of first-team players before the tournament, resulting in smaller draws and cancelled men’s and mixed-doubles matches. 

Each match was best of three sets, with the third set being a 10-point tiebreaker. The men’s singles ran as a knockout, with a back draw (loser plays loser). Seven men entered the tournament – with three consecutive wins needed to claim the title.  

The men’s final between the two first-team players brought in spectators. Second-year BA student Neo Matutoane described the match as “super exciting”.  

Although happy with their overall performance, first-team players indicated that there was room for improvement throughout the course of this year. “We (the team) are going to work very hard this year,” said Kole. Swartz and du-Pont echoed similar sentiments. “We all want to and need to improve,” said Swartz, and Du-Pont added that “There is a lot of hard work ahead of us.” 

The tournament is aimed at fundraising ahead of the club’s first appearance at the University Sport South Africa’s (USSA’s) A section in six years, after their performance in USSA’s B division in December 2022, hosted by North-West University in Potchefstroom. This year’s event will be hosted at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape.  

Head coach Sylvester Zungu, who joined the club in 2020, aims to get Wits to be considered as one of the top tennis universities in the country. “I am ambitious,” said Zungu. “I want [the club] to go to USSA and bring back silverware. The university is known for being the best in academics – it is time for it to be the same for tennis.”  

Wits Tennis chairperson Connel Manhica said that the club was planning to organise friendly fixtures against the first teams of other universities in the USSA A section – particularly the University of Pretoria and North-West University in Potchefstroom. “This is aimed at getting match experience against strong teams,” said Manhica. 

  • Ciaran Swartz in his service motion. Photo: Seth Thorne

FEATURED: Ciaran Swartz lunges for a return of serve in the men’s final. Photo: Seth Thorne


Wits Cricket Club Premier League Champions

An unbeaten season for Wits Cricket Club secures a historic first place victory in the Gauteng Premier League 50-over format.

On Sunday, April 2, Wits Cricket Club played in the last game of the season and beat Kagiso Cricket Club by eight wickets. The Wits side were first on the Enza league table and needed a win to maintain their position.

Wits Cricket Club celebrate after restricting Kagiso Cricket Club to 181 runs on Sunday, April 2, 2023 at Wits main campus.
Photo: Kimberley Kersten

After forfeiting the toss, Kagiso were sent in to bat first. They got off to a good start in the power play with the first few wickets, but shortly after Wits were able to pull that lead back. With Mohammad Manack’s fantastic spell of five wickets for 21 in 10 overs, Wits restricted Kagiso to a subpar 181 runs.

Ndumiso Mvelase, Kagiso Cricket Club’s vice-captain said that the game was competitive but enjoyable, he said: “We knew that we were playing against the champs and ultimately we came out on the wrong side.”

When Wits took to batting, they were met with the fall of the skipper (Deeran Baba) in the opening overs. But Billy Van Zyl 65* (106) and Manack 81 (78) steadied the ship with a match winning partnership. Lions player, Conner Esterhuisen, struck the final blow with an explosive 25 not out, propelling Wits to 182/2 with 17 overs to spare.

This win marked the second trophy for the team this season after winning the USSA B division in December 2022, which saw them qualify for Varsity Cup and promoted them to the USSA A division.

Spectator Willem Van Zyl said: “The coaches have a lot of experience, they really know what they’re doing.” The new head coach, previous Lions player Nono Pongolo, who took up the post at the start of the year, looks forward to building upon the season’s success by preparing for Varsity Cup in the winter.

Speaking to the season that was, Captain of the Wits Cricket club, Deeran Baba, said: “The boys have worked hard behind the scenes to put out results every weekend and success has come our way. There is definitely more to come.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Wits batsman, Mohammad Manack, hits a ball against Kagiso Cricket Club on Sunday April 2, 2023 at Wits. Photo: Kimberley Kersten