SOFTBALL South Africa (SSA) will be hosting the 27th edition of the National Provincial Championships (NPC) at Cape Town’s Turf Hall stadium scheduled between March 29 and April 2.
Like in previous events, this year’s edition has all the hallmarks of an electrifying brand of Ballgame. SSA, the custodians of the game in the country, boasts an impressive track record of hosting this tournament on an annual basis with young players emerging from relative obscurity. The excitement about this year’s event is that it has generational mix of youngsters in both the men and women categories who want to prove themselves and veterans who want to retire with clean sheets. For the record, they are veteran pitcher, Grant Olivier, talented utility in Lisa Bisschoff, Melita Savage and Reese Nayland, the under/23 men’s captain. The two women – Savage and Bisschoff – personify what makes this edition of the NPC so appealing – the impact that may be made by any number of exciting novices in what has been described as the toughest softball competition in the country. From being a U/18 player, Savage is speedily entrenching herself in the senior women’ squad, an Olympic material if you agree. Meanwhile, Nayland is raising the bar as a motivational captain and he is definitely destined to be the leader of his country’s attack, a true leader and warrior in the heat of battle of attrition. His spectacular rise has been one of the unqualified success stories of South African softball.
Gauteng women, affectionately known as “Roses”, will be in the coastal province solidly entrenched as the reigning champions.
The team under the guidance of coach, Prince Mkhabela has young women who are capable of causing an upset on any given day.
Bisshoff is the pinup girl and in this tournament, the coach will expect her to rise to the occasion and take this assignment by the scruff of her neck. “Lisa is such a great player and we will be relying on her experience in the infield. She knows how to read the game and complements her teammates. Her presence in the team is a great motivation” said Mkhabela.
Limpopo men descend to the Mother City chockfull of pomp and zeal as the defending champions having won this inter-provincial tourney five times in succession. Head coach Nakedi Raphalo and his assistant, Tumelo “Zane” Mphahlele have their job cut out after current national coach Malemola Raphasha laid a solid foundation for the province. Since winning the tournament in 2015, under the tutelage of Raphasha, Limpopo has being on a rollercoaster of passion and fury winning the first installment of the Premier League. Thanks – in no small part – the immense talent in Limpopo, outsmarting competitive provinces like Kwa-Zulu Natal and Gauteng, the men from the Great North continue to ride the crest of the softball waves. The coaching staff of Raphalo and Mphahlele, ably aided by the expertise of Thapelo Seshoka will pin their faith in the country’s pitcher-in-chief, Tidima Kekana, the midfield duo of second base ace Sello “Manganga” Molongoane, nimble-footed shortstop, Matleng Phasha, first baseman Phomolo Phaladi, catcher\third baseman Nkomori Chepape and outfielder Mandla Matswinyane. Despite the depth of talent in the Limpopo squad, Raphalo is not complacent. “The NPC is not the kind of tournament you take for granted. We are well aware that all the provincial teams in the country want to prove their worth by beating Limpopo. So, we are going to this tourney knowing that we are the biggest threat. Thanks God, we have talented and committed players who want to continue to raise the provincial flag high. We are taking all our arsenals to this sporting war and hopefully they will do their utmost best. They have done that before and I have faith in them. They have played softball at the highest standard internationally” said Raphalo.
This is the bulk of the national team, a confirmation that Limpopo is the home of softball however; there are newcomers who are determined to make a serious impact in the provincial side.
Meanwhile Eric Raphasha Senior Men Head Coach and Samson Rakgoale U23 Men Head Coach will be at the NPC to finalise their teams for the world cups. The U/23 will jet off to Argentina for their games which will be held from 22 to 30 October 2022 in the city of Parana, in the northeastern Argentina whilst, Raphasha and his charges will fly to Auckland, New Zealand where they will trade bats from 26 November to 4 December 2022. Raphasha reiterated that tournaments like the NPC provide us coaches and players to fine-tune our game plans ahead of international games. By the time the NPC is concluded, we will be knowing both our strengths and weaknesses” said the most successful coach in the history of South African softball.