The UP-Tuks men’s basketball team will start tomorrow’s Varsity Tournament hosted by Wits with the mindset that they are good enough to play in the semi-finals.
It indeed is a tough challenge as in their first game UP-Tuks will be playing VUT who is the USSA champions. Rufaro Warinda (UP-Tuks captain) is however not fazed as to what happened earlier this year.
“The Varsity Tournament is a new ‘ball game’. Due to its rules, quite a few of the VUT players are not eligible to play which certainly favours us. I honestly believe that we are capable of winning and if we do the sky can be the limit. We just got to be mentally focused for the duration of the tournament. For quite a few of us it is our one and only opportunity to compete in the competition. It definitely adds extra motivation as we want to make Tuks proud,” said the industrial engineering student.
UP-Tuks is coached by Neo Mothiba who holds the record for the longest-serving captain for any South African team. He captained the national basketball from 2003 to last year.
As the coach he has set himself the goal of trying to help the Tuks men’s team to become one of the best. Judging by the team’s performances at the USSA Tournaments he is succeeding in doing so. Last year Tuks finished 9th, and this year they were fifth.
Mothiba's honest opinion is that his team is capable of better results. The inconsistency of the team when it comes to crunch games is something that still worries him.
“When we play a quality side I am never sure which Tuks team is going to step onto the court. When unsung we can beat any team, unfortunately, the opposite is also true. That is why I am placing a lot of focus on mental toughness.
“As a team, we have learned some hard lessons during the recent USSA Tournament. We have been working hard to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes. What makes it tough playing the student tournaments is that there is no going back for a few days to work on mistakes and strategies as everything happens over two weekends. It is important that the players immediately forget what happened on the court and refocus for the next game.”
Mothiba is quite excited about the Varsity Tournament concept. According to him, it could play a significant role to revive South African basketball.
“Most of the players in the national team are students so every game it is going to be the best versus the best, and that is what the fans want.”
Tomorrow’s game against VUT will be played at 15:00. On Saturday UP-Tuks will be playing TUT and UCT and on Sunday UKZN.