Taking one for the team

By Robbie White

Sports events hold a very special place in every Rhodent’s heart.  Whether they are the more commonly watched sports of rugby, soccer and rowing or the less viewed chess, table tennis and rock climbing, they are all very much part of the Rhodes lifestyle. Many of you will soon find out that more than just sport goes on at some of our main sports events. Many of them are parties waiting to happen.

The biggest sports event-cum-party of the year is the Tri-Varsity event held annually at either Rhodes or Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) which are long-standing rivals. This event is fondly remembered, or often forgotten, by many Rhodes students who consistently win awards for being the most spirited supporters at these events. On the sports field at this event all sports are played against rivals NMMU and Fort Hare. Normally Rhodents sit themselves down at the main events with a beverage nearby and they rant and rave whilst the games go on. This event generally happens in the third term of the year but is anticipated by many Rhodes students for months in advance.

Another well attended sporting event is the Fish River paddling event. This is an event where competitors are sent down the rivers in either one of two types of boats: the K1s and K2s (a two-man boat). Spectators strategically place themselves along the course, normally congregating in certain areas. There are many stories to be told from this outdoor event and with well-liquored spectators often joining in the race down the river this is entirely understandable. Last year saw the Rhodes women taking gold in the event and the Rhodes men taking bronze. No doubt spectator performance would have taken first place had there been a prize for it.

Whilst still in the water, we should move down to Port Alfred, the home of one of Rhodes’s most committed sporting teams, the rowers. Every third term vac, Rhodes students head down to the coast to view three days’ worth of South Africa’s best rowing at Boatrace. Students congregate underneath the bridge near the finish line to cheer on the rowers as they pass by, either going down or up the river. This event has been extremely successful for Rhodes with our women’s first and second crews both winning gold last year and our men’s first eight taking gold. Boatrace is about more than just the rowing, though, as many a spectacle happens across the river on the banks and many students find themselves midair off a bridge from which they have jumped. Boatrace is a great party to plan for with live bands playing gigs and the Snorting Grunter staying open until sunrise. It is a party many students like to share with the rowers.

An event which every sporting code is involved in at Rhodes is the South African Student Sports Union (SASSU) event, which is where Rhodes is pitted against all universities in a challenge to find the best sporting universities. The sporting categories themselves happen at different times, with one sport travelling to one event at a time. Although Rhodes often struggles at these events, being a smaller university, many of our sporting codes do extremely well and some individuals excel. These events for Rhodes are largely about the camaraderie and team spirit they build as well as the opportunity to challenge the skills developed in a particular sport. SASSU is always good fun for those involved and it creates memories that last forever.

These are only some of the major events which Rhodes is involved in and there are many others which can’t be mentioned or explained and should rather be experienced, so instead of sitting in your room picking up first-year spread, rather attack the sports field and find something that interests you among the 30 odd different sports on offer. Who knows, you may be the next Vladimir Samsonov or Yao Yan, both of whom are world class table tennis players. For now, though, just come and enjoy.

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