UFH - Rowing - Lunga Mcetywa

It was a case of third time’s a charm for Fort Hare rowing coach Lunga Mcetywa when he won his first medal for South Africa at the Africa Beach Sprints competition in Tunisia.

Barely a year after his first outing to the North African country for the same coastal rowing event, the 33-year-old stormed home with partner George du Plooy to take bronze in the men’s doubles.

After failing to secure laurels at both the 2022 beach sprints and last year’s Commonwealth Games in Namibia, he is understandably proud of his first medal for Team SA.

He also placed fifth in the mixed doubles at the beach sprints, a quality performance despite falling short of a top-three finish.

Mcetywa, still fatigued after returning home to East London this week, said he and Du Plooy had performed well in the time-trials to establish qualifying positions for the races.

“In the first one we were beaten by Tunisia but in the second we beat Libya. That allowed us to qualify for the B-finals, where we faced Algeria for the bronze medal. We then beat them.”

While a podium meant a lot to him personally it was also pleasing to be able to repay the coaches and managers who had invested in them over the years, Mcetywa said.

UFH - Rowing - Lunga Mcetywa

Fort Hare rowing coach Lunga Mcetywa, third from right, enjoys the moment with members of the South African rowing team in Tunisia. Photo: Supplied

Just as he had done in the men’s doubles, he qualified third in the time-trial for the mixed race. Unfortunately, he and partner Ziyanda Gwamanda were unable to replicate his performance with Du Plooy.

Mcetywa was in Tunisia for two weeks, also participating in a training camp hosted by World Rowing.

Conditions were not ideal during the camp, with high tides an all too frequent occurrence, but fortunately these had subsided by the time the competition started.

Mcetywa added he had learnt a lot on the coaching side of things. The mentors of other competing nations, particularly Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, were happy to have a chat and were “very motivating”.

“Especially in the men’s doubles you would watch the top teams and see what they were doing differently.

“I believe we would have placed even higher if we had implemented these things earlier in the competition, something we did do in our last race. They were small things, but we managed to implement them effectively.”

While he did not compete against him in an actual race, Mcetywa did face another Fort Hare rower and one of his charges, Alvin Rukuni, in the mixed doubles time-trial.

LLB student Rukuni, 24, made the news when he convinced Zimbabwe’s sports federation to let him row for the country at this year’s beach sprints.

His first time out in the competition yielded satisfactory results, finishing seventh in the mixed doubles and 12th overall in the men’s singles race.

Mcetywa said his mentee would only go from strength to strength, having now had a taste of international competition.

“I think he had a good event. What was important was for him to go there and get the feel of it, what the atmosphere is like and understand the conditions.

“Experience counts for a lot. I remember with my first competition last year I completely messed up going around one of the three buoys in the water.

“I made a couple of mistakes, but going there for a second time I knew what I was supposed to do.”