The Cape Town-based beach volleyball team of Grant Goldschmidt and Freedom Chiya will start overwhelming favourites to win the Eastern Cape Open, the country’s biggest tournament, at this weekend’s MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival in Port Elizabeth.

According to the organisers, 56 of South Africa’s leading men’s and women’s teams have entered.

Goldschmidt says they are currently “on top form” and he describes their chances “as good as anyone else’s” to win the title at the two-day event.

They are well-known for their powerful service and excellent ball control, which will stand them in good stead in windy conditions – which is par for the course in PE.

Goldschmidt – who is expected to captain the SA student team at the World Games in Serbia in July – says he expects their biggest competition to come from the Gauteng duo, Dominic Goliath and Ulrich Hargreaves.

He names the combination of Adrian Strijdom (Cape Town) and Ryan Wentzel (Johannesburg) as one to watch.

Twenty-one teams will do battle in the women’s section.

Here the country’s senior captain, Palesa Sekhonyana (Johannesburg), and Bonolo Ramphomane (PE) will be the team to beat, according to experts. They won the tournament in 2005.

Gillian Zealand (Uitenhage) and Amelia Luyt (Cape Town) are expected to be their biggest rivals.

Sekhonyana says they are hungry for another win in PE. According to her, the local crowd is very knowledgeable and the atmosphere always “electric”.

“We are most certainly playing to win. However, we will take the tournament one game at a time without thinking too much about the other teams.”

Gershon Rorich, Volleyball SA’s beach volleyball organiser, says the Splash Festival has over the years been exceptionally good for the development of the sport.

The matches will be played on Kings (Saturday) and Hobie Beaches (Sunday) respectively.

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MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival