UFH - Rowing - Women - Quad fours winners - FSC

University of Fort Hare’s class of 2024 went into the weekend’s Buffalo Regatta looking to gain experience but came home with a clutch of medals instead.

East London’s famous rowing race, held for the 136th time, provided a memorable few days for Asekho Jara and Sibabalwe Ndungane in particular.

Jara was part of the four-member team – which included Ndungane, Sibabalwe Nongwana and Sinazo Nohiya – who beat arch-rivals Walter Sisulu University in the final of the women’s Quad event.

She was also in the UFH boat that triumphed in the combined men’s and women’s Eights race. Her third major performance came in the Singles, where she swept her way to a workmanlike third.

Along with the victory in the Quad race, Ndungane finished second behind University of Pretoria’s Jeanne Riemann in the Singles.

“It was a good weekend,” coach Lunga Mcetywa commented on their effort.

While numbers were slightly down compared to recent editions, he said very little compared to winning a medal at one of South Africa’s most prestigious events.

As pleased as the coach was with the medal haul, he felt his charges were a paddle or two short on endurance.

UFH - Rowing - Women - Quad fours winners - FSC

The Fort Hare women’s squad who took gold in the Quad race at the prestigious Buffalo Regatta in East London this past weekend were, from left, Banathi Sihole, Asekho Jara, Sibabalwe Ndungane, Khanya Madaza, Sinazo Nohiya, Lona Gquka and Sibabalwe Nongwana. Photo: Full Stop Communications

Consequently, he has adjusted their training programme before the ripples on the Buffalo River have had a chance to settle properly. The new objective is to reach the standard required in 2km races.

UFH and WSU were two of four tertiary teams competing – the others being the rowing powerhouses of Pretoria and Cape Town.

“We are improving by the year,” Mcetywa, who believed that they were already at a higher level than other Eastern Cape universities, said. “And teams like the University of the Western Cape.”

The end goal is to compete as equals against the likes of Tuks and UCT.

With their star on the rise, Mcetywa was hoping that UFH’s sports department could procure the latest equipment on display at this year’s regattas to further enhance their chances of competing bow to bow with the best.

The sky would be the limit, he said.

With the first two events of the season now in their wake, Fort Hare will be using the next two months to prepare for the all-important University Sports South Africa (USSA) Sprints in Cape Town.

This event marked a watershed moment for UFH last year.

The men’s Fours took gold in the D-division while the women placed second in the Fours (D-division), Pairs (C and D-division) and Singles (D-division) – resulting in them placing fourth overall out of nine universities.

The USSAs are in mid-April, giving the rowers all the time they need to regroup before knuckling down again.

Mcetywa, for one, had no doubt that they would arrive in the Western Cape a much-improved team.