Mbalulua: Ignore shenanigans
Fikile Mbalula (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - South Africa's student athletes should ignore the "shenanigans" going on in sporting boardrooms, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said in Kempton Park on Sunday.
Ongoing battles between the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) and Athletics SA (ASA) have disrupted their preparation for the World Student Games in Kazan, Russia.
"We are employed to lash these people when they're being naughty in the boardroom," Mbalula said at the team's send-off.
"Don't worry about the shenanigans going on in boardrooms," he said.
"They do not know what it takes for athletes to prepare for something like this. We will never allow them to take this away from you. They have no right to do that."
Mbalula made it clear his sympathy lay with the athletes and spoke as if it were his own fight against the administrators.
"It's us or them -- they will never win over us. We will defeat them," he said.
University Sport SA (USSA) confirmed it had withdrawn its membership of Sascoc to allow the country's athletics team to compete at the Games.
The 27-member track and field and road-running contingent had been omitted from the squad named earlier in the week, after Sascoc suspended ASA and barred all athletes registered with the federation from competing in International Olympic Committee (IOC) events.
"We have taken the painful decision to withdraw our membership of Sascoc to allow our athletes to compete at the games," said USSA president Tyrone Pretorius.
Mbalula and Pretorius believed USSA and Sascoc would find an amicable solution down the line.
"We will resolve this," Mbalula said.
"Whether or not it [USSA's withdrawal from Sascoc] is the right decision is a matter for another time. For now, I'm happy that the team will represent South Africa in Russia."
The student athletics team, which will be banking on a number of medals, includes Olympic 200m finalist Anaso Jobodwana, who has been knocking on the door of both national short sprint records this season, and Akani Simbine, who set a new SA junior 100m mark of 10.19 seconds in December.
Jobodwana and Simbine will spearhead the 4x100m relay quartet as South Africa aim to defend the gold medal they won at the 2011 World Student Games in Shenzhen.
Versatile long-distance runner Stephen Mokoka, who will compete in the half-marathon, is targeting his third medal at the Games, while javelin thrower Robert Oosthuizen, a former IAAF World Championships finalist, and in-form 400m hurdler PC Beneke are also in the team.
The 120-member South African squad will compete in 12 sporting codes at the games, which start on Saturday.