Fourth annual Mali memorial event gets fully-fledged status
The Mzwandile Mali Memorial Rugby Festival launched its fourth annual U18 rugby tournament at Thamsanqa High School in Kwazakhele at the weekend.
With development and bringing about change in Port Elizabeth township schools as the top priorities in this year’s event, the organisers are looking to elevate the tournament from its pilot projects in previous competitions.
“We are expecting more competitiveness from the boys because the festival will be shifting from piloting to a fully-fledged tournament,” tournament coordinator Xolisa Mali said.
“Having started this competition in 2014, we still have the aspiration of producing brilliant rugby players who will represent South Africa in the future.”
Eastern Province High Schools Rugby Union chairman Willem October said the tournament created a vibe in communities and helped address societal issues brewing among the township youth.
He emphasised the importance of the tournament because it met the constitutional mandate of keeping youngsters active and playing.
“We view the tournament as a stepping stone for our learners to get into national level where they can come out as heroes for their communities,” October said.
An U18 team will be selected from the tournament to participate in the Craven Week U18 final trials.
“Our learners from underprivileged schools will get an opportunity to be exposed to Eastern Province Rugby administrators,” he said.
“We have been fortunate to get spin-offs from the competition where at least one learner has been chosen for the national Craven Week events for the past two years.”
Current champions and tournament favourites Molly Blackburn, of Uitenhage, will need to step up after losing some of their star players to higher education institutions.
“We have been training hard in our pre-season camps because retaining the tournament title would mean a lot for our school,” teacher and coach Mthetheleli Mseleni said.
“An interest in rugby from the girls has grown and an U16 girls’ team has emerged from the school.
“We are, however, a bit shaken by losing some of our good players, who have left for varsity.”
Kick off for the preliminary rounds is tomorrow at 2pm on the A and B fields at the Dan Qeqe Stadium in Zwide. The finals are on March 29.
The winning school will be rewarded with R50 000 to assist with study materials.
It is hoped that the tournament will branch into other townships schools in Grahamstown to broaden and cement its presence.
Tomorrow’s fixtures are: Booysen Park v John Watson; Molly Blackburn v Masiphathisane; Ndzondelelo v Lwazilwethu; Loyiso v Gelvandale; Cowan v Qaphelani; Betram v Mzontsundu; Arcadia v Thamsanqa