March 5, 2024

Cream of country’s youth set to battle it out in Cape Town

Malinga heads list of champions for Growthpoint Junior Nationals

Western Cape, V&A Waterfront, South Africa: Northerns star Awande Malinga will be just one of several champions primed to make their mark when Growthpoint South African Junior Nationals squash championships take place in Cape Town in August.

The tournament will be held on the all-glass court at the iconic V & A Waterfront and will see the country’s best young players in the U15, U17 and U19 age-groups battling it out for the honours.

This junior event was initiated two years ago to create greater exposure for SA’s younger players, starting with the U17 age-group tournament being played simultaneously with the Growthpoint Senior Nationals.

A year ago, it was expanded to include U15 and U19 sections, and from August 17-20 in Cape Town a total of 48 girls and boys (16 in each age division) will decide who are the country’s national champions.

The final field was decided by qualifying events through regional hubs which were spread around the country, and they threw up a sprinkling of familiar names who could again figure in the final reckoning.

Malinga, who was runner-up in the U17 final in 2021, will be aiming to win her second U19 crown in succession after outgunning Rachel Shannon for the title a year ago.

She will go into the tournament an obvious favourite but will also be wary that there is a target on her back.

A year ago, Dene van Zyl took the Growthpoint U17 title and will now test herself in the next age division. Admittedly she may not have the experience of her rivals but her dominance in Cape Town in 2022 will make her one to watch this time.

In addition, Elske Garbers has experience of competing in the Growthpoint Interprovincial with the SA Country Districts team and she could make her presence felt. She lost to Malinga in the U17 semifinals in 2021 and might like to take this chance to make a statement.

The U19 boys’ division is shaping up to be a classic showdown between a talented group of players as Western Province’s Seth Flisberg tries to put behind him the disappointments of recent years.

The talented strokemaker underlined his potential by reaching the finals in 2021 (U17) and last year (U19), but each time has found a Groenewald standing in his way.

Two years ago, he lost a titanic final in five games to Luhann Groenewald after fighting back from 2-0 down and last year he was outduelled by Luhann’s elder brother, Damian, in straight games.

Now Flisberg is back for another shot at the title, with Luhann joining him in the U19 top eight.

Devon Osborne, the U17 runner-up last year, moves up to the next age-group and he would also like to have a say in the final positions, but knows that there will be a serious scrap for supremacy among his peers.

Other winners from last year back to try again are Elzandri Janse van Rensburg, who will defend her U15 title, and Juan-Corne Brand, who moves up the U17 division after winning the U15 section.

The regional qualifiers are:

Girls

U15: Tara Neville-Smyly (WP), Anushka Janse van Rensburg (Northerns), Kate van Biljon (Border), Elzandri Janse van Rensburg (Northerns), Mikayla Naidoo (KZN), Starla Phillips (Northerns), Hanrie Duits (Boland), Vivienne van der Schyff (Free State)

U17: Lucy Malherbe (WP), Laura Smit (Joburg Squash), Anke Garbers (Northwest), Sasha Earl (Border), Chante Leppan (Northerns), Brianna Robinson (Eastern Gauteng), Cevana Naidoo (KZN), Cara Knott (Border), Lia Viljoen (Boland)

U19: Ashton Weir (Boland), Elske Garbers (Northwest), Caylin Nieuwoudt (Boland), Kelly Emslie (Border), Nicola Bentley (KZN), Jordin Phillips (Northerns), Awande Malinga (Northerns), Dene van Zyl (Boland)

Boys

U15: Christian Swanepoel (Eden, George), Ross Smorfitt (Eden, George), Savata Nkuna (Joburg Squash), Joshua Edwards (Border), Aiden McNeil KwaZulu Natal (KZN), Milan Raffa (Northerns), Joseph Myers (Northerns), Matthew Muller Eastern Province (EP)

U17: Hector Durbach Western Cape (WP), Louis le Riche (Boland), Joel Rix (Free State), Jody Emslie (Border), Tilak Nana KwaZulu Natal (KZN), Judah Phillips (Northerns), Juan-Corne Brand (Northerns), Carel Fronemann (Northerns)

U19: Seth Flisberg (WP), Devon Osborne (Boland), Diodivine Mkhize (Joburg Squash), Kobus van der Walt (Southern Cape), Luhann Groenewald (Northerns), Frederik Botha (Northerns), Bryce Blomquist (KZN), John Anderson (Joburg Squash)

SOURCE : BLD GROUP

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