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Wheelchair aces lose

Belgium put an end to the Sasol South Africa wheelchair basketball team’s bid for a second successive title in the Belgium Easter Test series by beating the national team 75-48.

After banking an impressive 59-40 victory over the Swiss in the five-nation test on Saturday, the SA side had hoped to carry the winning momentum into their final match at the Tongerlo Sports hall near Brussels.

However, the host nation dominated early on to lead 39-19 at half time and over the next two quarters, proved too strong for the newly formed national squad and went on to hand the South Africans a 27-point thrashing.

Belgium captain Samil Baler was a thorn in the side of the South Africans, scoring 21 points, with Demitor Taughe contributing 17points.

South Africa’s Thandile Zonke and Luvuyo Mbanda responded with 13 and 12 points respectively, while Jaco Velloen weighed in with seven points and team captain Siphamandla Gumbi added six points.

Although the team were disappointed, newly appointed national coach Patrick Fick focused on the team’s overall performance and not the individual results of their matches against the Netherlands, Italy and Switzerland.

The South Africans lost 54-49 to the Dutch team in an extremely physical contest. Still, a disappointed Gumbi said he was impressed by the commitment shown by the newly formed national team.

In their other game, SA went down 59-38 to Italy

ÔÇ£I think our lack of experience as a new team showed,but we were prepared for that to happen,ÔÇØ said Fick, who is tasked to groom this team for the 2012 Paralympics.

ÔÇ£This was the first time the team came together since at least half of our players are involved with international club teams. Judging their performances throughout the test, I am delighted with their progress the team has shown.

ÔÇ£Overall, they performed well as a unit and showed this in the match against the Swiss. We have some problems to iron out, but we have laid a very solid foundation.ÔÇØ

Gumbi said that although the team began the match against Belgium at a disadvantage because of injuries, they still gave 100%.

ÔÇ£We suffered some injuries in the team, yet every guy was still willing to push through their pain to play for their country,ÔÇØsaid Gumbi. ÔÇ£Even though we lost we are extremely proud of the character the players showed today and throughout the test.ÔÇØ

Fick agreed, saying that the team will benefit hugely from the experience in Brussels. ÔÇ£We came across different styles of play which we can learn from, especially against European champions Italy and Belgium,ÔÇØsaid Fick. ÔÇ£It was great to see players like Gift Moeketsi and Luvuya Mbanda step up to the plate.

ÔÇ£We have learned a lot from the experience and now look forward to the French Tour in South Africa towards the end of April where we can put this experience to use.ÔÇØ


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