The University of Fort Hare’s rowing team returned from the Buffalo Regatta in East London in high spirits and with invaluable experience after a number of top performances.
The way they celebrated at the end of the competition last weekend showed what it meant to the student-athletes to take part in such a prestigious event, said rowing coach Lunga Mcetywa.
“When our rowers sing and dance, you know they are definitely enjoying themselves. It was great seeing them supporting one another and mixing with some of the best rowers in the country.”
Fort Hare competed in the C section and came away with second place in the women’s singles, first in the women’s doubles and first in the women’s quads. The men participated in the B section, where they finished runners-up in the eights.
The team will now start preparing for the University Sport South Africa (USSA) championships in Moorreesburg, just north of Cape Town, at the end of March.
Mcetywa said the experience gained from the Buffalo Regatta would play a huge role in the development of the rowers.
“We learnt that we still need to do lots of technical work. We also have to up the time we spend on the water to build up our endurance.”
All in all, he felt the winning mentality and positive energy garnered from the event were important for their confidence.
“I feel our rowers did very well,” he said after the regatta, in which most of the team participated for the first time.
“Most of them were nervous as the race was much bigger and more competitive than they had been exposed to before. I’m proud of how they kept their composure and applied the things we practised in training.
“If we can spend more time on the water to work on those aspects it can only be good for us going forward.”
The team for the USSA champs would be “more or less the same” as the one that did duty in East London and the goal was to improve on their 2022 result, he said.
UFH’s sports officer in charge of rowing, Tim Leeuw, echoed Mcetywa’s sentiments.
“The fact that the Buffalo Regatta is so prestigious and held in ‘our backyard’ makes it very special. You learn so much when you compete at the same event as some of the best clubs in the country.”
The cherry on top for the team was the fact that the university’s vice-chancellor, Sakhela Buhlungu, made a special trip to the race to meet with the team and cheer them on.
“It motivated us during the event and will also motivate us to improve,” said Leeuw.
He admitted they were a “little bit behind” some institutions in terms of their experience, but that they were doing everything possible to continue their development.
“There is always room for improvement and one of our priorities is our equipment. If we can work towards supplying the students with more modern boats and equipment, it will play a big part in lifting the sport at the university.”