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Rush hour

Isaac Pheko

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Toyota favourites to win Source:The Midweek Sun

It’s races week for this year’s edition of the 1000km Toyota Desert Race(TDR). For motorsport aficionados, casual racing fans and camping enthusiasts it basically means braving the frosty June winter and making the annual sojourn to Jwaneng mining town in the South Western part of the country this weekend.

Once in Jwaneng, the TDR will reward both local and international spectators with a thrilling spectacle as high-octane racing machines will be literally kicking up dust and flying by mere four metres away from the zealous crowd. For spectators the thrill of being so near the action is part of the adrenalin rush and the mystique that come with the TDR.

The event, which draws crowds of up to 200 000 to Jwaneng and surrounding villages, starts with a prologue on Friday before the two stages on Saturday and Sunday where both man and machine are expected to endure Botswana’s torrid and unforgiving terrain. As usual there will be three classes including the FIA production class, which features the fastest and most powerful vehicles. There is the Special Vehicle category popularly known as Sand Master and the popular bike category (featuring two wheelers and quads).

However, it is not only the racing and the drama that makes the TDR popular, local spectators throng Jwaneng for the spectacle; the splendour, the colour, the petrol fumes and the gloriousV8 exhaust sound that reverberates throughout the desert terrain. Besides being the single biggest sporting event hosted in Botswana, there is simply nothing like the TDR. The marathon race forms part of the popular South African Cross-Country Series (SACCS) championship, which features six rounds in different parts of the neighbouring country.

The TDR is the third round of the SACCS and the jewel in the crown of the popular championship. This race comes with double points towards the championship series and every driver and riders find both team and personal glory in winning the event. Since 2011, the Toyota Gazoo Racing (TGR) has dominated the event.

Toyota South Africa are the event sponsors and their domination comes as no surprise. The TGR are part of Toyota’s world class racing program that includes campaigns in the 10 000km Dakar Rally and the popular World Endurance Championship (WEC) that includes the Leman 24-hour race. On paper Toyota have no challengers in the race their closest rivals include the Elf Renault Duster Team and new entrants, Nissan Red-Lined team. Once again are expected to win the race in dominant fashion.

A win at the TDR in all categories almost guarantees a sport in the 2019 Dakar Rally scheduled for Peru. Botswana’s best hopes will be pinned on locally brewed rider Ross Branch. The multiple TDR two-wheeler bike rider has plans to compete in the 2019 Dakar Rally and winning on Sunday will give him and his KTM team a major boost in the arm towards their Dakar campaign.

This year will be the fourth time the TDR is hosted in Jwaneng. The race comes with major economic benefits to the Jwaneng community in terms of retail, hospitality and petroleum.

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Netball regresses

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When successfully hosting of the 2017 Netball Youth World Cup (NYWC) this past year under the Tebogo Lebotse Sebego regime, Botswana netball team (Under 21) showcased a crème dela cream squad, boasting exceptional players such as Pearl Maribe, Sarona Hans, Florence Poane and Cheludo David, just to mention a few.

This left many people anticipating for a smooth transition to the senior team and continue with their impressive performances at elite stages. However, this has not been the case as the national team has been performing dismally, failing to book a spot at the 2018 Africa Netball World Cup back in August, which will be hosted in England, Liverpool next year.

Prior the 2018 Africa Netball World Cup qualifiers staged in Zambia, Botswana roped in a mentor from South Africa, Dorette Badenhorst who confidently said in an interview with Sun Sport before departing to Zambia with team, that the team was in good shape. The results, however did not show and the coach was gone.

In an interview with Sun Sport this week, Botswana Netball Association (BONA) Public Relations Officer (PRO) Theresa Hirchfeld explained why the international coach (Badenhorst) left immediately after the qualifiers, “We had no money to hire an international coach but we desperately needed one hence Spar came to our rescue to bring Dorette Badenhorst on board to help us specifically qualify for the 2019 Netball World Cup edition.

We had to part ways with her because we did not have funds to continue with her,” she explained. According to BONA PRO, the continued absence of the domestic league can be pointed as the main reason why the national team has not been performing well recently, “We do not have a league running at the moment, hence resorting to meeting only on weekends in preparation for important tournaments.

However, I think we did fairly well at the just ended Diamond Challenge tournament held in South Africa looking at the fact that we were not able to go with our full squad due to Police Department events that hindered the selection of players from the Police side,” said the BONA PRO.

The 2018 Diamond Challenge Netball tournament in South Africa, Limpopo was played by Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa’s president XII. The local team did not fare well as they lost most of the games they played, but only managed to salvage one consolation win.

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Knockout Football tournament returns

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The thrills, spills and high stakes of knock out football have returned to the local scene following the announcement of the new Orange FA Cup.

The mobile telecommunication company announced a P12.6 million, three-year deal that will see over 30 teams competing for the first prize of P700 000.After years of FA cup drought since the much-loved Coca Cola cup, 48 teams from the BTC Premiership, Debswana National First Division (DNFD) and regions are expected to slug it out for honour and glory in the newly introduced tournament scheduled for 2019. Addressing members of the media and other football stakeholders in Gaborone this week, BFA President Maclean Letshwiti said sponsorship remains a challenge to local football and other sporting codes.

“I am excited that the regions will finally get a platform to have an event which they can look forward to, with the prospect of generating income,” Letshwiti said. “Sponsorship is key to football as this is how our industry can grow and change the lives of footballers. When we crafted this sponsorship, we wanted an arrangement that can assist regional teams.” Letshwiti said Orange Botswana is no stranger to football as the company has been in football before and they are currently proud sponsors of CAF.

“A platform like the FA Cup offers a great -opportunity for all our league and structure to be scouted and seen by national team coaches across the board. We also now get an opportunity to close the gap between our leagues and increase competition for participation or qualification into the cup.”

Speaking during the same occasion, the Orange Botswana Chief Executive Officer Dr Patrick Benon said the sponsorship will be approximately P4.2 million per football season for a total of three seasons.

“This initiative demonstrates Orange Botswana’s strategy to cultivate talent and support local sports development in line with previous sponsorships like the Kabelano Charity Cup, the Orange Phikwe National Marathon and also the official Zebras National team sponsorship ahead of the historic appearance at the AFCON finals in 2012,” he said. Through these sponsorships, Benon said they have realised the significance of sport activities beyond entertainment.

“It is also about uniting communities, strengthening relationships and supporting activities. The sponsorship by Orange will cover prize money, individual awards, team kits, tournament administration fees and travelling, to name a few.” The competitions will kick off with eight teams from both the DNFD north and south. The first round will also include 16 regional teams. The second round will include 16 winners from the first round and 16 BTC Premiership teams. The second round is expected to produce the last 16 teams who will proceed to the quarter finals.

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