After a jaw-dropping water polo season in 2023, the St Stithians College girls’ first team will be aiming to replicate their superb form when they kick off their 2024 campaign this weekend at the Brian Baker Tournament in Makhanda.
Saints won the tournament last year, after edging Durban Girls’ College 8-7 in the final.
The 13th edition of the prestigious annual event will see 20 girls’ teams from all around the country battling it out for glory.
St Stithians, coached by former SA player, Etienne Le Roux, are the favourites and are keen to live up to that tag with an impressive early season showing.
The girls from Johannesburg have been drawn in one of the tougher groups, Pool D, where they will take on Herschel, St Mary’s Waverley, Collegiate, and East London’s Stirling High School.
It will also be a special weekend for Le Roux, and one to savour, as he begins to look towards a future in the Western Cape with Rondebosch Boys’ High from March.
In an exclusive interview with SuperSport Schools ahead of the tournament in Makhanda, the 36-year-old said despite his departure he is still fully committed to the team, and he will ensure they challenge for the honours in every competition they contest.
“A new year always brings new challenges, and we feel confident that we can challenge all opposition and be strong competitors in 2024,” he said.
“It will be tough to leave a programme that has taken years to develop and implement. But there are many other factors, both work and personal, which were considered for the decision to leave St Stithians.
“But for now, I’m just excited to see my team playing again, and pushing boundaries at every opportunity.”
Saints were superb in the pool last year, putting together an astonishing 65-game unbeaten run.
After claiming glory in Makhanda early in 2023, the side went on to win the National Aquatics, Reef Cup, St Anne’s National Tournament, and the Roedean Prestige Cup.
It will take some doing to stop Saints’ hunt for more glory, even though the team has lost the bulk of its players from last year’s all-conquering outfit. Le Roux said his side will bank on its mental strength, which has been a key to its past successes.
“I think our biggest attribute last year was our mental strength and never-give-up attitude,” he said.
“For many games, we were down in the beginning but then managed to fight back. We will look to have that same mental grit when we get there this weekend.
“We are well prepared after a good pre-season programme. I think the players are also in a very good space after a wonderful SA Schools Tournament in 2023.”
Before departing Saints, Le Roux will lead the side in four more tournaments – the National Aquatics, Roedean Prestige Cup, Old Petrians and Reef Cup – all of which they won last year.
Asked if he had any message for the school, Le Roux didn’t hesitate: “Saints will always be in my heart.
“The families, players, parents, and staff, I have worked with over the years are all truly amazing.
“I hope for nothing but success for them after I have gone,” he concluded.
St Stithians College fixtures at the Brian Baker tournament:
Thursday, 25 January @ Kingswood College:
15:00- St Stithians College vs St Mary’s Waverley
Friday, 26 January @ Kingswood College
11:00- St Stithians College vs Herschel
15:00- St Stithians College vs Collegiate
18:00- St Stithians College vs Stirling High School
Avuyile Sawula is a multimedia sports journalist, broadcaster, and writer. He possesses a journalism qualification from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. During his time in the media industry, he has worked for various online media publications covering big matches and events across the country. He also has a broadcasting background having worked as a news journalist at one of Cape Town’s commercial radio stations. His reporting beats include hockey, rugby, water polo, and cricket. Apart from writing, he has a knack for creating sports content, and video editing.