The NMMU-Madibaz karate squad will be protecting a proud record when they take on their student rivals in the University Sport South Africa tournament in Pretoria from Friday.
After finishing as the champions from 2010 to 2015, Madibaz were the runners-up last year and martial arts manager Bernard Petersen said they would definitely be looking for a place at the top again.
“We have done considerably well over the last seven years, but we know the competition will be extremely tough this time,” he said of the tournament to be hosted by Tshwane University of Technology from Friday to Sunday.
“We have a number of new karatekas in our squad and we are aiming at least for a top-three berth.”
Even with a degree of inexperience in their squad, Petersen said the reputation they had built up over the last decade would stand them in good stead in their objective to make another big impact on the week.
While acknowledging that the varsity exams provided a challenge to their preparations, he said the squad had been practising diligently to make sure they were in top shape for the event.
“Sensei Lucky Maxama, who is one of the top karatekas at NMMU, has worked very hard to prepare the students,” he said.
“It will be his first year as a coach, after previously being a student, and he and the squad are looking forward to the challenge. Currently they are in a camp fine-tuning their preparations.”
Petersen said they would be sending 15 full contact karatekas and three semi-contact exponents to the tournament.
“We are trying to promote semi-contact on the campus. The difficulty is that there are so many styles in semi-contact, so it does pose a challenge.”
He added that with full contact there was only one style and the Madibaz teams had excelled in that discipline over the years.
Petersen identified Eastern Cape neighbours Walter Sisulu and Fort Hare as teams who would be among their strongest challengers, while he pinpointed several Madibaz stars he felt could do well.
“Karatekas such as Njabulo Gumede, Masixole George, Lizeka Senti, Gratiano Ntokwenzani, Aviwe Tsewu, Nosipho Matika and Adre Weidemann will have important roles to play for us.”
He said the USSA tournament performed a critical role in their development as a club.
“This event is the most important one on the university calendar for us and everyone prepares extensively for the competition.”