UFH pool players cueing up to cash in on USSA gold rush

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Fort Hare Supa-Pool team manager Babalwa Malimba will never pass up the opportunity to shoot a few on the felt even though her time as an USSA player has come to an end.

 

The University of Fort Hare’s Supa-Pool team are lining up their shot for gold at this year’s USSA tournament in Cape Town.

The students from Alice are determined to lift the coveted trophy when they hit the tables in Bellville from July 1 to 5 after both the men’s and women’s teams placed on the second step of the podium last year.

For the first time in five years, Fort Hare pool supremo Babalwa Malimba will not lead the team as a player. Instead, she is doing so as team manager.

She is nevertheless confident that the 10 men and five women in her charge can go all the way this time round.

To her mind, Fort Hare have assembled one of their strongest teams ever to do battle in the Mother City.

“We will do great. The players know they are there to win the title,” she said.

Stars like Abongile Yalo, Ahlume Cetywayo and Asekhona Patela will form the backbone of the team as they chase glory at the annual student shootout.

It has not been the easiest year from a logistics perspective for the club so it says a lot that they are in a position to challenge for the title at all.

Their practice and tournament venue at the Old Student Centre on campus is undergoing renovations, meaning they have had to practise and host events at Fort Hare’s East London premises or down the road at Rhodes University.

Yet this has done nothing to dampen their enthusiasm for the sport.

Malimba said 60 per cent of the club consisted of new players while, among the women, eight out of every 10 were rookies.

In addition, there are 14 development players between the Alice and East London campuses.

“We are growing [as a club],” she said.

“We have internal and external try-outs at the start of each year where we decide who stays and who goes. We look at players who are making improvements and those who may not be participating in team activities.”

Malimba is also a stickler for continuity.

Even if a more seasoned campaigner is committed to the UFH cause, he or she may be asked to stand down in favour of a first or second-year student – who represents the future of the team.

It is on the back of the tremendous interest shown by female players that Malimba has decided to step back as an USSA player.

“We had four ladies last year and I was forced to play. Now, because we have a full complement, I can safely say I can sit down and watch!” she quipped.

The Master’s student in agricultural economics acknowledged it would “hurt” a little being on the sidelines, but she was happy with her decision to develop her skills as a leader off the felt.

As further evidence that she practises what she preaches, she too does not want to block the path of an up-and-coming athlete.

“I have played, I have had fun and I have grown my skills. Now I’m ready to take on the next challenge.”