Sa­maai plans to set long jump pit on fire next year

Stars go down me­mory lane Ath­lete sets sights on su­per­star­dom

Sunday World - - Sport - By Go­molemo Motshwane By Go­molemo Motshwane

The Soweto derby has the power to cap­ture the South African pub­lic in a man­ner that the Gup­tas could only dream of.

The seis­mic clash that was played at the FNB Sta­dium yes­ter­day be­tween Or­lando Pi­rates and Kaizer Chiefs di­vides fam­i­lies like few other oc­ca­sions can. Those who have played in the derby strug­gle to find de­serv­ing words to use to de­scribeit.

For­mer Amakhosi mid­fielder Jab­u­lani Mendu pro­vided some in­sight into the way ev­ery­thing changes in the week ahead of the show­down.

“It’s [in] the week be­fore that it all starts. Ev­ery­thing starts on a Mon­day … bra Kaizer [Mo­taung] comes to train­ing ses­sions. Usu­ally you don’t see him, but he comes,” Mendu said.

“Dur­ing the week, leg­ends come to mo­ti­vate the play­ers. Ev­ery­where you go, at the malls and petrol sta­tions, ev­ery­one is say­ing we must get the win. Ev­ery­thing about derby week is stress­ful.”

Mendu, who is the coach of ABC Mot­sepe League out­fit Baberwa FC, says his in-laws were al­ways on his case on derby week.

“For some­one like me, who mar­ried into a fam­ily of Pi­rates sup­port­ers, when I’d go visit no­body would talk to me, we’d only talk af­ter the game.

“That taught me that in SA foot­ball is a re­li­gion. It is our cul­ture and is big­ger than any po­lit­i­cal party or any­thing like that.”

For for­mer Buc­ca­neers fan favourite Bene­dict Vi­lakazi, it was a case of ijob yi­job (work comes first) as he grew up sup­port­ing Chiefs but ended up be­com­ing a cause of their pain.

“Work is work and ev­ery­thing else came af­ter. For me I worked for Pi­rates but sup­ported Chiefs, so I have a soft spot for both,” Vi­lakazi said.

“For me the best team must win. I favoured Chiefs when I was young be­cause I liked the kit and the colours, so I got at­tracted to them. My fa­ther was a Swal­lows fan and my mother was a Pi­rates fan.”

Mendu ad­mit­ted that Vi­lakazi was a men­ace to the Glam­our Boys.

“Vi­lakazi [gave] us prob­lems. He would al­ways score against us. He once hurt us in the last minute. That man took bonuses from us.” South African long jump star Ruswahl Sa­maai has been wait­ing pa­tiently to de­liver that sig­na­ture per­for­mance on the in­ter­na­tional stage, it is in 2019 that he aims to fi­nally make his mark on a global level.

The 27-year-old ath­lete has been knock­ing on the doorsteps of world su­per­star­dom for the past few sea­sons now. This year he clinched bronze at the Com­mon­wealth Games in Aus­tralia and fin­ished sec­ond at the IAAF Di­a­mond League fi­nals in Switzer­land.

He bagged gold in the African Cham­pi­onships in Nige­ria, ahead of fancied com­pa­triot Luvo Many­onga.

“This is only the be­gin­ning of some­thing great. I told my­self not to put any lim­its on my­self. It has been a suc­cess­ful sea­son but, like I said, there is more to come,” Sa­maai said.

The hard­work­ing jumper has been liv­ing un­der the shadow of Paarl home­boy and Olympic sil­ver medal­ist Many­onga. About their in­tense com­pe­ti­tion, Sa­maai said: “Peo­ple have no idea what is go­ing on within the com­pe­ti­tion zone. A lot of times peo­ple see my­self with Luvo, talk­ing. But peo­ple won’t un­der­stand what we are talk­ing about.

“Yes it’s a ri­valry and it is a good ri­valry. He is one of the best in the world. Off the track we don’t talk much as on the track, so we are not that close of mates off the track.”

The ma­jor ath­let­ics event com­ing up next year is the World Cham­pi­onships in Doha, Qatar in Septem­ber. Sa­maai will use the cham­pi­onships as prepa­ra­tion for the 2020 Olympic Games in Ja­pan.

“The world champs is big be­cause you have an op­por­tu­nity to show­case the tal­ent to the world be­fore all at­ten­tion turns to Tokyo.” The fourth year lo­gis­tics stu­dent was recog­nised by his in­sti­tu­tion as he won the Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg sports­man of the year award this month.

■ Bronze 2014 (Scot­land)

■ Bronze 2018 (Aus­tralia) African cham­pi­onships

■ Bronze 2014 (Morocco)

■ Gold 2016 (SA)

■ Gold (Nige­ria)

World Cham­pi­onships

■ Bronze 2017 (UK) Con­ti­nen­tal Cup

■ Gold 2018 (Czech Repub­lic)

Jab­u­lani Mendu says the clash is a big oc­ca­sion for both teams.

/ Them­binkosi Dway­isa

Bene­dict Vi­lakazi has al­ways been a fan of ChiefsBene­dict Vi­lakazi tor­mented Chiefs, the club he grew up sup­port­ing.

/ Roger Se­dres / Gallo Im­ages

Ruswahl Sa­maai is pre­par­ing for Doha Games.

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