Wits rowing club makes a splash 

The Wits University’s rowing club has their sights set on a strong end to the 2023 season. 

The Wits Rowing club has made it to the fifth out of 10 positions at the University Sports South Africa rowing sprint championships at Mis Verstand dam, in Cape Town this past weekend.  

Wits rowing chairperson Malose Makwea and Jason Westman won gold in the men’s lightweight pair category, in a time of 3 mins and 36 secs. The lightweight category allows for each contestant to weigh 70kgs, and there is no person steering (coxswain). The pair defeated the University of Pretoria, which was trailing behind by just six seconds, along with three other teams.

The two also came second in the men’s lightweight double, which does not consider the participant’s weight.

Unfortunately, the women’s team was not able to get any medals in this competition, however, their captain Amy Cooper said that “everyone gained important experience, especially those new to racing.” Meanwhile, Makwea said: “the team spirit is very high, and people want to do better, which is good.” 

Wits Sport rowing officer Tebogo Rabothata said that he is happy with the consistency of the club and he is hoping for podium finishes at the end of the year. “We really need to up our game [going forward] to finish top two or three.” He added by saying that as training increases, so will the depth of the club. 

The team at Wits is predominantly made up by those who are new to the sport. This is referred to as ‘novice rowers’, which consists of rowers who have less than one year of rowing experience.  

Deborah Cronje, who steers the boat describes rowing for the club as extremely fulfilling, with the team consistently developing. “We are largely a novice team, with [the club] winning the development award at the previous boat race,” said Cronje. 

Members that the Wits Vuvuzela spoke to added that it is the culture of the Wits rowing that separates it from other clubs and contributes to the rower’s growth. “Unlike high school, or other university rowing environments, we focus on enjoying the sport,” said men’s captain Troy van der Westhuysen, adding that “with [enjoying the sport] comes growth.”   

Across the board, those involved with the club are looking to recruit more Witsies to row, regardless of experience level.  

Currently the club is busy with preparations ahead of the Gauteng and South African Championships, which will be taking place this month.  

Gauteng championships will take place on the 14th – 15th, whilst the South African Championships will take place on April 28th to the 29th at Roodeplaat dam. From the 7th to the 12th of September, the club will also take part in Boat Racing in Port Alfred, Eastern Cape. The club is hoping to send two men’s and two women’s teams to these competitions. 


The Wits Rowing club’s ladies team on the water at USSA sprints. Photo: Wits Rowing


Rowers outclassed


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

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.