10 NOVEMBER 2015 – Three-time Paralympian Richard Nortje, one of South African wheelchair basketball’s favourite sons have returned and will be in action at the 2015
Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge at Vodacom World in Midrand on Saturday.
After a hiatus of two years from the sport, Nortje has been lured back to the national side, the Amawheelaboys to give the side an extra edge.
Nortje featured prominently for the Gauteng Province team that won the Vodacom Wheelchair National Championships title in Potchefstroom in September.
The team will be looking to add more silverware in 2015 as they vie for the Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge crown.
“My shoulders were tired after 12 years of playing non-stop but I am hungry to play again and it is great to be back,” Nortje said.
Nortje’s team will battle it out with North West, Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal over the weekend with the winner going away with a cool R100 000 in prize money.
The 34-year-old Nortje may not be a spring chicken anymore but what he lacks in youthful vigour he makes up for in experience.
Nortje also points out that although wheelchair basketball is physically demanding it also requires a wide skillset to be competitive.
“It is a very technical sport and it is not always about being fast, strong and fit but you have to know when to be where and knowing what to do when you are there,” Nortje said.
Playing professional wheelchair basketball since 2001, Nortje has travelled the world and experienced different cultures thanks to the sport.
Nortje started his professional career in Barcelona but has played in different teams in Italy and Spain over the years and is fluent in both languages.
For years Nortje has been the go-to-guy in the national team but his two-year absence forced Amawheelaboys coach Franck Belen to improve the general skills level in basketball in the country.
“In the past the team (Amawheelaboys) centred on me and when I had a bad day or would suffer an injury the wheels of the bus would come off,” Nortje said.
“Because he could not select me, Franck had to teach the team to play without me, so now it is also easier on me with everybody playing their part.”
Nortje said he had for a long time held the view that basketball in the country was stuck in a rut, but has seen positive signs of improvement since his return.
“The standard of wheelchair basketball in South Africa is finally improving and for years I thought it was stagnating,” Nortje said.
“In the past the younger players would not be taught the right techniques but Franck has worked hard to improve the situation and it has over the last three years.”
Wheelchair basketball is not for the faint at heart, as the players play with reckless abandon and the ball is shifted from goal to goal within seconds.
Although the players are in wheelchairs, the rules do not change much from the conventional game.
The sport is played on the same size court and basket height and players display some fantastic skill when taking shots.
A team has 24 seconds from taking possession of the ball to complete its attempt on the basket and players are required to throw or dribble the ball after two pushes of the wheel.
The grand final of the 2015 Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Challenge will be preceded by a celebrity Exhibition Game on Saturday. With Springboks Trevor Nyakane and Adriaan Strauss taking part, along with soccer legend Marks Maponyane.
The celebrity Exhibition Game will take place at 14:00 ahead of the main match.
Vodacom is proud to be a sponsor of wheelchair basketball for the past 15 years.
Vodacom – Power to Possibilities.
NOTE TO MEDIA:
Media wishing to attend the Vodacom Wheelchair Basketball Final and the celebrity Exhibition Match, please RSVP to Shelly@openfield.co.za
Media queries: Shelly Samuel