Team SA on form to qual­ify for Rio

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­press.co.za

The SA Na­tional Box­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion (San­abo) is keep­ing its fin­gers crossed that its box­ers will do well in the In­ter­na­tional Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion open Olympic qual­i­fiers in Baku, Azer­bai­jan, which start on Thurs­day.

The 10-day event, fea­tur­ing the cream of the crop of am­a­teurs from around the world, will be the gate­way for box­ers to book tick­ets to the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, which run from Au­gust 5 to 21.

A seven-mem­ber San­abo team is due to leave for Baku to­day to start pre­par­ing for the show­down.

The team con­sists of Sikho Nqot­hole, Sibu­siso Bandla (fly­weights), Ayabonga Son­jica (ban­tamweight), Asanda Gingqi (ju­nior light­weight), Sibu­siso Malinga (light­weight), Sizani Lu­vuyo (light heavy­weight) and Akani Phuzi (heavy­weight).

The squad spent two weeks in a camp at the Eastern Cape Acad­emy of Sport in Port Elizabeth ahead of the cru­cial qual­i­fiers.

San­abo pres­i­dent Andile Mofu said that the bouts in Azer­bai­jan will de­ter­mine the fighters’ fu­tures.

“This is a cru­cial mo­ment for the squad be­cause if the box­ers do not qual­ify, it will be back to the draw­ing board,” said Mofu.

“The Olympic dream will be over. We are pray­ing that medals will come our way.”

Mofu said coaches Nkosi­nathi Hlatshwayo and Jo­han Prinsloo had been work­ing hard on tac­tics such as de­fence and ring craft, and he said that the team was mo­ti­vated.

The fo­cus will be on Son­jica, Nqot­hole and Bandla to prove their mettle in Baku.

Son­jica lost in the pre­lim­i­nary rounds at the 2012 Lon­don Olympics. He feels con­fi­dent about scor­ing a vic­tory at the Rio event this time around.

Nqot­hole and Bandla clinched gold and bronze re­spec­tively at the Olympic qual­i­fiers in Yaounde, Cameroon, in March. How­ever, their achieve­ments were not recog­nised as a pas­sage to the Olympics.

PHOTO: CON­RAD BORN­MAN / FOTO24.

FO­CUSED Ayabonga Son­jica goes through his paces dur­ing train­ing. He is con­fi­dent that he will qual­ify for the Rio Olympics

IN AC­TION Akani Phuzi (left) is one of seven South African con­tenders who will slug it out at the qual­i­fiers in Baku

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