UFH - Softball - Men - Azolile Mdudu (FSC)

The University of Fort Hare’s softballers are making a habit of turning heads.

While the men’s and women’s teams fell short of claiming famous scalps at this weekend’s Gordon Monk tournament, they left a lasting impression on those they came up against.

Their opponents in Kempton Park were studded with national and provincial stars, yet the students came away with their heads held high after running more than a few teams close.

“Most people thought as a university team we would be a walkover,” said coach Nolwazi Mabindisa.

“But people commented on our style; that we have our own brand. They said no one should take us for granted.”

UFH represented the Buffalo City region at the tournament, which brings together the cream of South African softball talent every January.

It was the 43rd edition, making it one of the longest-running softball competitions in the country.

Mabindisa was hugely impressed by the way the men’s side “held their ground” against eventual tournament winners TSA Blue Sox.

UFH - Softball - Men - Azolile Mdudu (FSC)

Azolile Mdudu was a rock in defence for Fort Hare at the Gordon Monk Softball Tournament in Kempton Park at the weekend. Photo: Full Stop Communications

The Pretoria outfit were unable to put up the big total they expected, she said.

“They thought they would win by a big margin, but this is not how it happened. They only won in the last two innings.

“Even their coach commended our defensive fielding. He said we just needed to pick up on the batting and we would be formidable.”

The men also gave the powerful team from Ethekwini a serious run for their money.

Azolile Mdudu was outstanding defensively while pitcher and skipper Thabiso Kebe was at his lethal best from the circle.

Equally impressive was Onke Giwu, the Fort Hare Kyokushin karate hero whose athletic prowess makes him at home in just about any sporting arena.

“Offensively and defensively he was a star,” Mabindisa said.

Fort Hare’s women, runners-up in last year’s University Sports South Africa competition, were slow out the gate but grew stronger as the season-opening event went on.

By the coach’s own admission, they were never in the game in their first two fixtures but rallied towards the backend of the weekend.

“We stood up to the teams from Pretoria and Sedibeng and we only lost the games by a small margin,” she said.

It was clear, she said, that there was a bit of rustiness when they took the field against sides from Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal in the opening rounds.

Their opponents also included some of the best players in the land and that was quite a hurdle to overcome from a psychological perspective.

However, she was immensely proud of how they had “played their hearts out” in bouncing back from those heavy defeats.

The team returned home on Monday morning but there will be little time to rest. As soon as student registration is complete they will turn their attention to the provincial league and other major tournaments on the calendar.