UFH - Softball USSA members

The progress of softball as a sport at the University of Fort Hare is reflected in the selection of five student-athletes for the University Sport South Africa national team.

This comes after the Alice-based university sent 12 players to the annual Gordon Monk tournament in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, at the end of January. With Fort Hare not attending the USSA championships in December, the event doubled as the official trials for them.

Three women – Awanele Nompetsheni, Sinenjongo Yolwa and Zizipho Lingela – and two men – Thabiso Kebe and Khanya Giwu – made the final cut. Lingela and Giwu were also part of the national outfit in 2022.

Furthermore, UFH head coach Nolwazi Mabindisa was appointed women’s team manager for the second successive year. Her colleague, strength and conditioning coach Silindile Mdlelelni, received the nod for the first time.

The sport initially had a relatively low profile at the university but the coach confirmed that it was on an upward curve.

“Not a lot of people knew much about softball when we introduced it at Fort Hare, but each year more students are getting involved.”

The tertiary institution has four teams at its Alice and East London campuses, where men’s and women’s sides compete in each of the local leagues.

The women’s team had shown their potential by winning back-to-back USSA titles in 2021 and 2022 and Mabindisa believed this was a huge incentive to become involved.

UFH - Softball USSA members

University of Fort Hare softball players, from left, Zizipho Lingela, Khanya Giwu and Sinenjongo Yolwa as well as head coach Nolwazi Mabandisa (women’s team manager) have been included in the USSA national team. Players Awanele Nompetsheni and Thabiso Kebe, and UFH’s strength and conditioning coach Silindile Mdlelelni, who are not pictured, will also join the respective squads. Photo: Supplied

At this point, UFH had not produced any senior national players, but she confirmed that it was one of the club’s main objectives.

“That would be a great achievement which would raise the profile of softball, so it’s definitely something we are working towards.”

In the meantime they would continue to provide opportunities for players by competing against other institutions and clubs in the province and even farther afield.

They will, for example, participate in the second Homerun Softball Tournament in Mthatha on March 11.

“Our women’s team were runners-up last year, so we are aiming to go one step better this time. The men will also be targeting the top spot.”

Mabindisa paid tribute to the players for their commitment to improve and expressed appreciation for the backing received from the authorities.

“I would be doing the university’s sports department an injustice if I did not acknowledge the work done by them and the support they have afforded us.”

The club has also engaged in a softball programme to grow the sport at UFH and in the province.

“To plan for the future, we are developing the sport at high schools in the region so that they can become feeders to the university’s teams,” explained Mabindisa.