Rugby, cricket, running, soccer: see which SA legends won the Battle of the Sports

The winners of the tough endurance challenge and Covid-19 fundraiser have been announced

05 November 2020 - 06:03
From left, Jenna Challenor, David Gatebe, Bruce Fordyce and Bongmusa Mthembu, winners of the Battle of the Sports.
From left, Jenna Challenor, David Gatebe, Bruce Fordyce and Bongmusa Mthembu, winners of the Battle of the Sports.
Image: Supplied

Comrades running legend Bruce Fordyce and his ultra-marathon dream team of Bongmusa Mthembu, David Gatebe and Jenna Challenor have won the BrightRock Battle of the Sports endurance challenge.

They clocked the fastest time – two days, eight hours and 15 seconds – in their 200km circumnavigation of the arid Verneukpan in the Northern Cape, leaving them with the ultimate bragging rights over Team Rugby, Team Cricket and Team Soccer.

The four teams competing in the event, which was also a Covid-19 fundraiser, were:

  • 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.

At an awards dinner held in Johannesburg, the competitors delivered heartfelt messages.

“No one team is a winner tonight," said Fordyce. "We are all winners and we are humbled to have been given this incredible opportunity to do something positive in such a challenging time.”

Ntini said: “This is by far the hardest thing we have 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.”

Reflecting on the challenge, team leader Vermeulen, who finished with 800km under his belt after accompanying all four teams, said: “What really hit home, having the privilege of interacting with each of the different members in the sporting codes, is just how far people can stretch when motivated by a cause bigger than themselves.

"They find the tenacity and grit way beyond what they thought was possible. I’d like to thank each athlete who accepted this challenge to make a difference. We all have memories to last a lifetime. Thank you. It’s been a most amazing journey with all of you.”

WATCH | Team Running sets off into the desert during the competition

Exceptional experience

“It’s been an exceptional experience and a privilege to watch these world-class athletes battle it out in the gruelling, 200km endurance race on Verneukpan amid the dry salt pans of the Northern Cape,” said Grinsport Consulting CEO Clive Grinaker, who initiated the event. 

He said the challenge, supported by BrightRock, the event’s founding sponsor and partner, was also about effecting positive change by raising money for vulnerable communities affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

To date, the challenge has raised R500,000 for such communities. The funding is being dispensed by the NGO Right to Care. Food parcels, essential goods and personal protective equipment have been donated to organisations caring for the elderly, disabled people and orphans in Alexandra, Yeoville, Soshanguve and Ivory Park. 

“It has been a pleasure and a privilege working with our athletes; with our intrepid expedition leader, Erik Vermeulen; and with our committed sponsors, including BrightRock, Fireblade Aviation, the Northern Cape Tourism Authority, Nature Hike Africa, Land Rover Centurion, XCO and Biogen and Monate Coffee; who have made this event a reality," said Grinaker.

What really hit home ... is just how far people can stretch when motivated by a cause bigger than themselves

"Our partner, the highly respected, independent and leading Covid-orientated NGO  Right to Care, has not only matched our fundraising rand for rand but has also overseen the allocation of funds.”

Prof Ian Sanne, CEO of Right to Care, said: “Thank you for the supreme efforts of Grinsport, BrightRock and all the sporting teams who participated in the BrightRock Battle of the Sports. It’s been a privilege for Right to Care to be involved and we are delighted to be able to allocate all of the funds raised towards vulnerable communities affected by the Covid-19 virus."

He added: “USAid has provided matching funds towards facilities which house vulnerable and institutionalised people – old-age homes and those [caring for people] with mental or emotional challenges, as well as Covid-19 prevention in vulnerable populations.

"This amounts to R5.5m in support of the BrightRock Battle of the Sports programme objectives. These funds will be channelled directly to the vulnerable, the elderly and the handicapped during the pandemic.”

Loving change

The last word came from BrightRock deputy CEO Suzanne Stevens: “BrightRock’s philosophy is to 'Love Change' – in other words, to seek and harness the opportunities that change brings with it.

"We felt the BrightRock Battle of the Sports provided the perfect platform to do just that: to harness the power of sport to drive positive change and to support our communities and the people at the front line leading the fight against the virus. It’s given us the opportunity to extend our purpose – helping people navigate change in their lives - to the broader community at a time of urgent need."

BrightRock also partnered with four celebrity teams, captained by Dan Nicholl, Siv Ngesi, Francois van Coke and Jason Goliath, who added their voices to the cause and participated in their own Battle of the Sports fundraising challenges.

"We thank and applaud all the people who’ve been involved with this campaign, but above all, we salute the courageous athletes, our BrightRock celebrity teams, and all the members of the public who took part in their own Battle of the Sports challenges," said Stevens. "They’ve made a true difference."

Follow the Battle of the Sports on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Arena Holdings, the publisher of TimesLIVE and Sunday Times, has been a media partner for the Battle of the Sports.