Competitors came from different institutions (University of Johannesburg (UJ), University of Pretoria and North West University), ranging from amateurs to some of the top ranking players in the country, according to Hlumelo Rubushe, Postgraduate BSc Computer Science and club treasurer.
The tournament was meant to assist the club in raising funds for the University Sports South Africa (USSA) Tournament in December and to raise awareness of the sport on campus. There was prize money and medals for winners and runner ups for all categories.
Rubushe said the tournament was essential in building the spirit of table tennis. “Wits hosts the largest table tennis tournaments in Gauteng. Annually we host three and about 100 people attend.”
There are two age divisions. One for adults where males and females compete separately. There is a open-junior section, where anyone under the age of 17 competes.
The tournament follows a round-robin format, in groups of five. Thereafter, it is a case of the last 32, where the top ranked winners (of the group) advance to knock-outs until the round of the final two.
“The spirit of table tennis lives on at Wits. Both the students and the administrators have come together to promote the club to new heights and levels, and to encourage people to come and enjoy, whether they play professionally or for leisure,” said Rubushe. The club teaches from beginners level to national level. “So no matter how good you are, we’ll beat you,” he joked.
Rubushe said in table tennis there was a healthy cohort of females in the club. The club is planning on hosting three more tournaments later in the year. One for juniors, seniors and a Jewish cohort.
Competitor Terrence Mathole (17), who is ranked number two in South Africa under the Junior section, participated in the tournament for “a little competition”. He will be leaving for Tunisia to train and participate in the Tunisian championships in September. He said his toughest competition was Luke Abrahams, a married man! He likes to listen to music and hit a couple of balls to warm up.
Some participants did not feel threatened by the competition at all. Zodwa Maphanga (23) who has been playing table tennis for 15 years said she expected to win all her games. “There is no competition from what I see”. She ranks sixth in the country. She only gets nervous for international tournaments. National tournaments are just “normal” for her.
Senior South African Women’s Champion, Danisha Patel, 3rd year Biokenetics at UJ, has been playing at Wits tournaments since her “junior” days, when she was 15. “It’s routine,” she said. UJ does not have a table tennis club, but she represents Gauteng central. She has represented her school, Gauteng and South Africa, in the sport.
“At Wits tournaments they hardly have singles for ladies. So every time I end up playing the men’s singles. Hopefully I’ll take the ladies, and go far in the men’s,” she jokes. To get through the nerves she listens to music on her iPod. She hadn’t trained the whole week prior to the tournament as she was studying for a test. “So I just really wanted to have a good knock … Once I have that good knock, that will decide if I’m winning. So I’m feeling good.”
This was the first tournament for Witsie Stephen Slabbert, 1st year BA. He was hopeful about getting past the group stages. Even though he started playing table tennis at the age of five, he was still worried about the competition. “There are some good guys here … These okes look like they’ve been playing since before they were born,” he said.
Experienced players like business owner, Faizal Hassen Bootha, who has played the game for over 20 years, rekindled his love for the game this year. He was only hoping to get past the group stages at the tournament.
USSA number one, Chetan Nathoo, has been playing table tennis for twelve years. He has only reached the top 16 in South African championships. He hoped to make finals of the tournament. He was weary about the South African champions who would be playing on the day, saying that they “are quite challenging”.