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21 February 2019 | in Summer FISU World University Games, NUSF News

South Africa’s Universiade prep in full swing

South Africa’s men’s Rugby 7s team emerged victorious at the FISU WUC Rugby 7s tournament last year, and will look to take that form into this summer’s Universiade, which sees Rugby 7s return to the programme for the first time since Kazan 2013.

It may be still over 130 days until this summer’s Universiade in Napoli, yet Team South Africa is leaving nothing to chance, hitting the ground running from the start of the year as they target a successful Summer Games.


The world’s best student athletes will descend upon Italy from 3-14 July this year to compete across 18 different sporting codes for not only university, but national bragging rights in an unforgettable sporting festival that will live long in the minds of these future stars.


As one of Africa’s top-performing countries, South Africa always prides itself in making its mark at the Universiade, and has already started implementing action plans five months before this year’s games.


A team managers’ meeting was held at the end of January, and was hailed as a resounding success by the team’s Head of Delegation in Napoli, Mr Mandla Gagayi, who is the current Director of Sport at the University of the Western Cape.


“The purpose of the meeting was to introduce team managers to the General Delegation Management  as well as outline a plan and deadlines leading up to the Universiade,” Gagayi tells FISU.net. “The meeting was a success and all team managers have already started to carry out their duties.”


South African athletes will participate in six different sporting codes in Napoli, namely athletics, archery, football, rugby 7s, swimming and tennis, with each sport sending both male and female participants.


“Participating sports have been finalised and the final team selections will be finalised in April 2019,” Gagayi confirms.


In Gagayi, Team South Africa have an experienced and knowledgeable leader who has been involved in sports administration at domestic level for over a decade, and has led regional delegations in recent years on numerous occasions. Napoli will be the head of delegation’s fourth trip to a Universiade, but his first as Head of Delegation, and he is relishing the challenge.


“I have been to three Universiades – twice as deputy head of delegation, in Kazan and Gwangju,” he says. “Now that I am the Head of Delegation, I plan to use all the experience received from previous editions to add value to Team South Africa's mission.”


In recent editions of the Universiade, South Africa’s women’s football team has always given a good account of themselves, with a high number of players in the senior national team still students and thus able to feature at the Games, including current African Player of the Year Thembi Kgatlana.

 All South Africa’s Team Managers met to discuss Universiade plans on 25 January

Yet with South Africa qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time in their history, a number of the team’s stars will be missing from the student’s squad, yet Gagayi feels this gives other budding players the perfect opportunity to shine.


“One sees this as opportunity for other football players to raise their hands and take advantage of the opportunity provided,” he says. “There is no doubt that South Africa has a great pool of talent within universities, therefore one believes that we can still deliver a competitive team to the Universiade.”


South Africa had a somewhat disappointing overall Universiade campaign in Taipei 2017, ending 44th on the medal standings and second in Africa with just five silver medals. An improvement in Italy is expected, yet Gagayi remains diplomatic about the team’s ambitions.


“The General Delegation Management will be guided by the National Executive Committee on what the medal targets are. Our mission for now is to make sure that we deliver a competitive delegation to Napoli,” Gagayi says.

With their proud sporting history, expect Team South Africa to be a team to watch in Italy.