The Sasol Amawheelaboys are in Suphanburi, Thailand preparing for the 2020 IWBF Afro Paralympic Qualifiers taking place in January 2020.
Coach Lydia Dumond has turned to some up and coming young stars to carry the hopes of South Africa going into the qualifiers, with the young Kwazulu Natal trio of Simingaye Shabalala, Zakhele Shelembe and Warren Tefu getting extended runs here in Thailand, whilst veteran’s Cecil Dumond, Thandile Zonke and Jaco Van Niekerk add some experience to the squad.
The first encounter in the 2019 Thailand Tri Nations Wheelchair Basketball Challenge for the Sasol AmaWheelaBoys, was an encounter against the New Zealand RollerBlacks. It was the first time the two countries had met since New Zealand had toured South Africa in 2016. On that occasion a very strong Amawheelaboys proved to strong for the Kiwis, but with the new crop of youngsters coming through, the South African were expecting a tough encounter.
New Zealand looked to their star player Sheldon Larsen to make things difficult for the Amawheelaboys, with Larsen having spent two seasons in South Africa, playing for the Durban franchise the Wheelchair Marlins.
A much closer contest between the two southern hemisphere rivals took place here in Suphanburi on Tuesday morning, and despite a spirited performance from the RollerBlacks, the Amawheelaboys proved too strong edging the game 46 – 34.
Buoyed by the victory, the Amawheelaboys did not have much time to recover, as there next encounter was against the host nation Thailand at 14h00.
The Thai team have had the edge over the Amawheelaboys in recent years have beaten the South African’s by 20 points in both of the previous encounters, so the Amawheelaboys knew they were in for a tough battle.
Thailand began the game with speed and precision and took advantage of a very lack lustre and tired start from South Africa. Leading 21-6 after the first quarter the hosts did not take their foo off the metal the whole game and forced the Amawheelaboys into countless turn overs and uncontrolled offensive attacks.
Despite never giving up and fighting to the end, the South Africans had no energy in the tanks after the mornings efforts against New Zealand, and Thailand ended up convincing victors by 71 – 28 at the end of the game, leaving the South Africans licking their wounds at the end.
Rolleblacks Haka Amawheelaboys Shaka
Day 2 of the 2019 Thailand Wheelchair Basketball Challenge, saw the Thailand and South Africa begin the days proceedings with a rematch of the day before.
The Amawheelaboys went in to this encounter, determined to put in a vastly improved performance in the wake of the humiliation of the loss the day before.
The South Africans made a real fist of this game and ruffled the Thai feathers through out the encounter, with a far more aggressive performance.
With the score level at 15-15 after the first quarter, the Amawheelaboys tried their best to stop the speed and accurate outside shooters of Thailand and at the break Thailand held a narrow 4 point lead, and were visibly flustered.
Thailands Iranian Head Coach however, managed to get his players to regain their composure, and they came out with intent in the third quarter. A flurry of unforced errors and turnovers, led to Thailand converting 5 unanswered opportunities, which took the game away for the South Africans and they were able to maintain a 19 point lead until the final buzzer, securing a 61-42 win in the end.
Nonetheless, a much better performance with some encouraging play from young Warren Tefu, who is stating to stake a claim to his position in the team.
Going into the second game of the day against New Zealand, South Africa were without the services inspirational veteran player Thandile Zonke, who had been ejected from the Thailand game with 2 Technical Fouls and had an automatic 1 game suspension.
This put the rest of the Amawheelaboys squad on the back foot a bit and they struggled to shake off the RollerBlacks early on in Game 5 of the tournament.
Coach Lydia Dumond used this game to give her younger players an extended run, with Shabalala, Shelembe and Tefu all stepping up to the challenge and held there own against some more physical Kiwi players.
The fourth quarter was the turning point in the game, as the Amawheelaboys piled on the pressure and were able to pull away and snuff the challenge from the Kiwis, eventually securing a 49-31 victory.
The action continues on Thursday with the third games against both New Zealand and Thailand and the Amawheelaboys will look to continue with the improved performances.