The University of Fort Hare make up almost half of the Eastern Cape team competing at the national dancesport championships in Mahikeng this weekend.
Even greater testament to the university’s depth is that several UFH dancers initially missing out on selection have received late call-ups for the competition hosted by North-West University.
The team, which include five couples from the tertiary institution in Alice, are managed by Fort Hare coach Thandisizwe Matyumza. Also included are dancers from Walter Sisulu University and clubs in Mthatha and East London.
The UFH members are Tumeka Madikane and Luphumlo Sifumba, Wanzi Maxhobi and Lorenzo Swartbooi, Lubabalo Xabanisa and Nontando Tsheleza, Inga Mtana and Axola Ximbi and Olwetho Mfo and Siyampumelelo Masangane.
While some have experience of the South African champs, it will be a first for the likes of Fort Hare’s Ximbi, who was called in as a replacement on Monday.
The dancers will compete in the Rising Stars category, where 30 couples initially take to the floor simultaneously.
Placing on the podium come Saturday will automatically qualify them for next year’s elite championships, where national colours will be awarded.
Therefore, said Matyumza, the weekend would be “massive” for anyone with ambitions of representing their country.
With the revised team now containing a mix of youth and experience, the manager feels it is an excellent opportunity for the newcomers to watch and learn.
The team’s preparation included analysing video footage of dancesport tournaments in other provinces as well as studying clips of their own performances at the recent interprovincials where they won bronze.
“The videos allow us to see where we’re lacking and whether we need to try something different,” explained Matyumza, who had also brought in a champion dancer from Durban to workshop with his charges.
Having witnessed them coming on in leaps and bounds this year, he is confident that they will be up to the task in Mahikeng.
The long trip to North West will be the first challenge to overcome. The team bus will follow a pick-up route from Butterworth to East London and then on to Qonce and Alice before making the journey northwards.