Having ridden a wave of success for six years, the Nelson Mandela University Squash Club have no intention of letting things slide as they enter what will be an important year in 2018.
Under the guidance of coach Jason le Roux, who was named Eastern Province player of the year in October, the Madibaz men’s team have won six first-league titles and five super league crowns since 2012.
They have also shown constant improvement at the University Sport South Africa week, which they will host next year.
Although they have not won the event, the men’s side were unbeaten in 2014 and Le Roux said Madibaz were often mentioned as a team on the rise.
They were still assessing who would make up the squad next year, but they were hoping to attract some strong players, he added.
“We lack a degree of financial clout, but if we get some top players into our system we will have a strong team for the USSA tournament, giving us a chance to win the title for the first time.
“Our women are good but we hope we can encourage some of the Nelson Mandela students who play largely on a social basis to join the club and increase the depth.”
After this year’s USSA week, Madibaz’ Hayley Ward and Bianca Brown were both included in the women’s Top Six.
Competing with bigger universities in signing up young talent remained a challenge, but Le Roux said their success was having some spin-offs.
“There is definitely interest among local talent to join us and players from other varsities have also asked me if they could come to study at Nelson Mandela University.
“We just need to work wisely with our budget to see how we can accommodate them.”
Le Roux ascribed their success to the pool of talent in Eastern Province and to the way the young players were managed.
“Port Elizabeth has always had top juniors coming through the system and one of the key elements is encouragement.
“Each player is different, so they must be managed in a way that encourages them to continue playing the game, and to get the best out of them,” he said.
“Putting goals in place and showing the players the goals are achievable, as demonstrated by our success, have helped a lot.
“Adapting to change is also critical. One can never replace hard work, but each student brings different challenges. It’s about finding out how we can keep up the hard work in the face of new challenges each year.”
One of the highlights for him was the enthusiasm of the students.
“That is very special because they always come out at the start of the year so excited and keen. You must just try to keep it going.”
Le Roux, who is also chairman of the squash club, said it gave him great satisfaction to see the players develop.
“When the Nelson Mandela University players are mentioned at USSA as having really improved, and when it is said they are the team who have the biggest heart, it makes me very proud and keeps me going for next year.”
Madibaz squash manager Melissa Awu paid tribute to Le Roux for his contribution to the club.
“It is wonderful to have a person like Jason in our club,” she said. “He is an asset and we are very proud of him.
“The men’s team have been outstanding in recent years and the blood, sweat and tears have paid off. It has been a wonderful team effort.”
Awu said their aim was to continue trying to attract good players from around the Eastern Cape to ensure the club remained healthy.