The Madibaz water polo teams are prepared for the unknown when they take on their peers at the University Sports South Africa tournament in Gqeberha early next month.
Mandela University will host the competition at the Newton Park pool from December 6 to 8.
Erin Harty, who represented the national team at the World University Games in China in August, said the fact that they knew little about the strength of the opposition added an element of excitement.
Because it is an annual event, the real challenge is that it is an adventure into the unknown.
“We will get a better understanding of what faces us once we have watched some of the matches,” she said.
According to Harty, they were “extremely excited” to host South Africa’s best varsity water polo players in the Bay and she also praised the venue as it offered good viewing for spectators.
“It will be great to get support from friends and family during the event,” she said.
Six women’s and five men’s teams will compete for the honours and the Madibaz will field one in each division.
The university’s water polo manager, Melinda Goosen, believed playing at home could only be positive for their performances.
“It’s always an advantage to compete in familiar conditions,” she said, adding that the support from local enthusiasts could prove to be vital.
Despite placing third (men) and fourth (women) respectively 12 months earlier, Goosen said the Madibaz had performed with distinction in recent years.
The women, in particular, had good results during this period, something she put down to the depth of their talent pool.
“At this stage, however, we find ourselves in a rebuilding phase.”
She was also mildly concerned about the effects of injuries to several players but said they had worked hard and were focused on giving it their all over the three days of competition.
Stellenbosch will more than likely be their toughest opposition but outfits such as UP-Tuks and Varsity College also have the credentials to be title contenders.
The women’s competition will be a round-robin where the top two sides qualify for the semifinals. The remaining four teams will contest two quarterfinals, with the winners advancing to the semis.
The two teams finishing at the bottom of the log in the men’s section will meet in a playoff to decide who goes through to join the other three in the semis.
The final day will feature the women’s final at 2pm, followed by the men’s playoff for third at 3pm and the men’s final at 4pm.