Top SA cricketers overcome pain and exhaustion in Battle of the Sports

There is still time for you to support this spectacular Covid-19 fundraiser too

13 October 2020 - 16:30
Team Cricket in action at Verneukpan during their leg of the BrightRock Battle of the Sports.
Image: Supplied Team Cricket in action at Verneukpan during their leg of the BrightRock Battle of the Sports.

Three of SA's top cricket players, Lance Klusener, Makhaya Ntini and Monde Zondeki, have completed a 200km circumnavigation of Verneukpan in the heart of the Northern Cape. They are the last team of local sport stars to finish the BrightRock Battle of the Sports endurance challenge and Covid-19 fundraiser.

The challenge has already tested the mettle of Team Rugby, Team Running and Team Soccer. The finishing times of all four teams, and the winner, will be announced this Friday, October 16.

“Team Cricket have made an exceptional finish,” said tired expedition leader Erik Vermeulen, who completed the challenge four times. “The team spirit has been absolutely phenomenal and I was blown away by the support these guys showed their teammates and myself.

"When we first started, Makhaya Ntini said, ‘We are not necessarily in it to win it, but rather here to do it,’ and that is exactly what they have done and then some.”

Ntini said that apart from scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, this was by far the hardest thing he had ever done. “It tested our patience and our pain thresholds, and really gave us an opportunity to think about what positive changes we want to make in our lives.”

“Yes, it was tough,” said Klusener, “but we never forgot to have fun. Having trained correctly also helped. Erik advised us to spend as much time on our feet as possible and this really allowed us to make smarter decisions.

"The most difficult part was just after the 90km mark where we encountered a lot of wind. We were dead tired and had to navigate both the cart, affectionately nicknamed Shimmy, and the corrugations in the road. We ended up just pushing through to get ahead of the clock, and the fact we all gelled so well really helped.” 

Zondeki, the youngest member of Team Cricket, said he felt relief, joy and pride when he crossed the finish line. “Right from the start I always said I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I started with some misgivings. Besides the really cold temperatures at night, we managed the rest quite well and our goal was always to try to beat Team Rugby.”

Pushing 'beyond yourself'

Vermeulen, with 800km under his belt, said mental fatigue and sleep deprivation had affected the teams. “These are all world-class athletes, but the experience has challenged even the toughest of these athletes, including myself, particularly on this last challenge.”

Reflecting on the event, he said two things had stood out. “First, all of us have immense potential within us, as clearly demonstrated by all four teams. Second, when you commit to something for a cause much bigger than yourself, you push yourself further. This challenge has been about doing your best and finding a reason to push beyond yourself.”

Everyone involved in the challenge had jumped at the chance to do something positive.

“When we first conceptualised the project, we wanted something that would inspire South Africans – and what better way than through their sporting heroes?" said Events to Aid CEO Clive Grinaker, who is also the founder of the challenge.

"If they could sacrifice so much on the pan, our plea was for the country to support the challenge with a small donation. So many vulnerable communities are still reeling from the effects of Covid-19, particularly our old people, our orphans and our children in vulnerable urban and rural communities. These are the communities we are supporting."

All funds raised in this event will be used to help vulnerable communities in SA hard hit by Covid-19, managed by the NGO Right to Care.

There is still time for you to get involved too

  • 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.