Popular Mzwandile Mali rugby event widens its reach
In its seventh year, the Mzwandile Mali Memorial Schools rugby tournament has returned bigger and better.
The competition has spread its reach and will include high schools from Makhanda and Fort Beaufort.
The founder and sponsor of the tournament, Lincoln Mali, said he was excited by the new twist to and sparkle of the event.
“I started this tournament seven years ago to revive township rugby, create an avenue for young people to enjoy sport and also expose them to the benefits of playing sport,” Mali said.
“Lastly I wanted to honour my late father, Mzwandile Mali, a keen sportsman who showed me what rugby can do.
“It’s been an amazing seven years of experience.
“We have grown because now we have extended the tournament.
“This year we will have six schools from Makhanda participating, but only one will go through to the quarterfinals, while four schools from Fort Beaufort will compete, but only one will go through to the quarterfinals.
“They will join the six schools from Port Elizabeth in the quarterfinals.
“However, the biggest highlight this year is that at the end of the tournament we will pick a Mzwandile Mali squad of 25 players.
“This team has been invited by Sevenoaks to tour the UK.”
The winning high school will pocket R50,000 in prize money, while the runners-up take home R25,000 and the semifinalists R10,000 each.
For individual awards, the man of the tournament will win R5,000, plus a school bursary worth R10,000.
The coach of the tournament will be awarded R5,000, with the backline and forward players of the tournament each scoring R3,000.
All participating schools will receive R1,000.
Title defenders Nzondelelo High have already started firing shots.
The Zwide side beat Molly Blackburn of Uitenhage by a close margin in last year’s final and were crowned the champions for the third year running.
“Though we have won this event for three consecutive years, this year we know that there will be schools outside Port Elizabeth competing, but we have prepared for them and the tournament very well,” Ndzondelelo coach Pumelele Martin said.
“We know the competition will not be a walk-over, so our opposition must also come prepared, otherwise they will face a baptism of fire.
“I feel pity for them, we are ready for this.
“This year we have strengthened our forwards because in the previous years we were relying on our backline most of the time.
“We noticed last year when we were playing the final against Molly Blackburn that we struggled up front.”
Molly Blackburn captain Hlomla Magwa, 17, said his team still had nightmares about last year’s final against Ndzondelelo.
“I have learnt a lot from the competition in terms of how to express myself on the field and how to handle pressure,” he said.
“We are still hurting from last year’s defeat after losing the game in the last minute.
“So the players are going into the competition holding that grudge against Nzondelelo.
“We will do everything in our power to correct our mistakes but, most importantly, make sure that we go home with the trophy.”
The draw will be take place at Cowan High School today and the first fixtures will take place on Friday at the Adcock Stadium.
The quarterfinals, semifinals and the final will take place at the Wolfson Stadium on March 19 and 20.