Hayley Ward crop

Eastern Province Closed squash champions Hayley Ward and Dean Venter will headline the field when the Madibaz Open takes place at the Nelson Mandela University’s South Campus from Friday to Sunday.

Ward, a former Madibaz No 1 who earned her South African colours last year, will be defending the title she won for the first time in 2022.

Venter was the leading player in the province last year, turning out at No 1 for Eastern Province at the annual Jarvis Cup interprovincial.

Tournament director Jason le Roux said the presence of the two EP stars would add much status to the event, but with Madibaz players such as Warren Bower and Siphelele Mpini in the men’s line-up, he warned that Venter would face some stiff opposition over the weekend.

“They both played for EP in last year’s Jarvis Cup, albeit in the B section, and would like to show what they can do over the next few days.”

As this year’s event was not a University Sport South Africa ranked tournament as had been the case last year, the field consisted mainly of local players, added Le Roux.

“Among them are a few players from Rhodes, including their No 1 Ethan Richardson, who also played in the EP team last year.”

Lining up against Ward in the women’s draw will be her Crusaders colleagues Janet Byrnes, who won the Westview Open earlier this year, and Mikayla Boy.

They both represented the EP women’s team at the Kaplan Cup in 2022 and Boy, like Ward, will be returning to her alma mater.

Hayley Ward crop

South African squash player Hayley Ward will be back to defend her title in the Madibaz Open at the Nelson Mandela University’s South Campus from Friday to Sunday. Photo: Carl Fourie Photography

“Overall we have 44 entrants and it is nice to see that a number of Nelson Mandela University students are playing in the lower sections, which is great for the Madibaz Squash Club,” said Le Roux.

Madibaz Sport squash manager Theresa le Roux said the tournament remained an integral part of their sporting calendar.

“We see this as a major event for not only local players to take part in, but also our students.

“It gives them a chance to compete against different opposition and with the varsity having recently resumed for the year, it will provide a guideline for the coach as to what talent is available.”

She said they were delighted to welcome sponsors SA Home Loans on board.

“We are very privileged that they will assist us with some of the costs and prizes.”

The Madibaz manager encouraged spectators to attend to see top-class players in action. They will also get to view a game of racketball, a variation on squash, but played on the same court.

“The plan is to hold a racketball exhibition match so that the community can get involved with this as well. We are aiming to promote this game at the university soon.”