Top SA cricketers ready to trek through desert in Battle of the Sports

Fourth team to embark on 200km endurance challenge and Covid-19 fundraiser

06 October 2020 - 14:53
Makhaya Ntini is one of the SA cricketers competing in the BrightRock Battle of the Sports this month.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images Makhaya Ntini is one of the SA cricketers competing in the BrightRock Battle of the Sports this month.

Hard-hitting batsman Lance Klusener and former Protea fast-bowlers Makhaya Ntini and Monde Zondeki will be the last team to tackle the BrightRock Battle of the Sports at Verneukpan in the arid heart of the Northern Cape.

The 200km endurance challenge, which is also a Covid-19 fundraiser, has already tested the mettle of Team Rugby, Team Running and Team Soccer.

Between October 9 and 12, under the guidance of team manager Jonty Rhodes and expedition leader Erik Vermeulen (who already has 600km under his belt in the event), the three cricketers will compete to see which sporting code can circumnavigate the pan the fastest. 

Ntini, who retired in 2011, was the first black player to play for the Proteas. He reached second place in the ICC Test bowling ranking, and is only the third SA cricketer to take 300 Test wickets and the only black SA cricketer to have played 100 Tests.

Zondeki will be remembered for struggling in his first Test, when injury restricted his bowling to just a few overs against England in 2003 – but he still hit 59 in the first innings and put on 150 for the eighth wicket. In his second Test, he took 3 for 66 and 6 for 39, and he was the leading wicket-taker in the 2007–08 SA season, with 62 wickets at 19.17.

All-rounder Klusener was feared as a hard-hitting batsman in one-day internationals. He was voted Man of the Tournament during the 1999 Cricket World Cup and Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2000. Since retiring in 2004, he has been coaching locally and abroad.

Confidence in Team Cricket

Rhodes was this week confident his cricketers would finish strongly. β€œOn the positive side, our team has had an extra week to prepare and this should play to our advantage," he said. "We know the rugby and soccer guys are used to 90 minutes and fighting through the pain barrier, as are the endurance and marathon runners. 

"I specifically chose two of our fast-bowlers as they often have to break through this barrier too; not for one day, though, but usually over two days ... and that should bode well for our team. So not only do we know a little more about what to expect, but physically the team have also managed to get some extra miles in their legs, walking and cycling.

"Last but not least, their other big advantage is their team history. Eastern Cape Cricket has such a strong tradition in the game, and all three have played together previously.  One cannot underestimate the strength of the camaraderie and I have no doubt they will pull together well, especially when it gets tough."

The finishing times of the teams competing in the challenge will not be revealed until all the teams have competed. All the results will be announced on October 16.

Events to Aid, the organiser of the BrightRock Battle of the Sports, will use all funds raised to help vulnerable communities hit hard hit by Covid-19. The programme is managed by the Covid-19-orientated NGO Right to Care.

How do you get involved?

  • Visit the Battle of the Sports website to support your favourite sports team doing the Verneukpan 200km challenge by donating to this worthy cause.
  • Use the hashtags #battleofthesportschallenge #lovechange when posting on the challenge's Facebook or Twitter page, or via Instagram
  • Then challenge as many of your friends as possible, or any schools, clubs and companies, to support this cause by tagging them in your social media posts.

The four teams competing in the event:

  • Cricket: Lance Klusener, Makhaya Ntini, Monde Zondeki; managed by Jonty Rhodes.
  • Rugby: Hanyani Shimange, John Smit, Schalk Brits; managed by Butch James.
  • Running: Bongmusa Mthembu, David Gatebe, Jenna Challenor; managed by Bruce Fordyce.
  • Soccer: Matthew Booth, Siyabonga Nomvethe, Teko Modise; managed by Neil Tovey.