PALAPYE: Tough competition is expected when 16 local sides take to the mound to compete in the Phikwe Softball Extravaganza over the President’s Day holidays. It appears the once local softball’s finest showpiece is still struggling to shake off the effects of the collapse of the BCL Mine.
Organisers revealed they were working on a shoestring budget, and the prize money has been slashed.
That, however, is no excuse for the teams. Four-time winners BDF IX return in a mean mood after missing the showpiece last year.
Team coach, Motlhatosi Maino said they failed to qualify last year as they were bothered by injuries and that most of their key players were out in Canada representing the nation at the World Baseball Softball Championships.
“Teams have improved a great deal since we have been out and we know exactly what to expect from our opponents. I have a fully fit squad and the boys are ready to reclaim our dominance in this cup,” Maino said.
Defending champions, Wells would be a stubborn customer for BDF IX. Wells is the team to beat as they have had a great year, winning the BoFiNet League and the Komatsu Easter Tournament.Winning the Extravaganza would be the cherry on top for coach Gagoope Ntsholetsang and his side. His secret, he said, is respect for the game and the opponents.
“My players are grounded. They are respectful and love the court. Our group is not easy, and we are going to go all out,” Ntsholetsang said in an interview.
“Our strategy is endurance. We are going mind, body and soul. We will match our opponents and beat them. The recipe has worked for us and we will use it to defend this cup,” he said.
Carats, Rail Giants, Police, Rebels, Comets and Panthers complete the list of the men’s teams at the tournament. In the women’s defending champions Police IX will battle Rail Giants, Titans, Scramblers, Comets, Panthers, Bears and Carats.
This year’s winners will pocket P40, 000, which is P20, 000 less than what the defending champions got last year.
The runners-up prize money has been reduced from P40, 000 to P30, 000, while number three will receive P25, 000, fourth and fifth will get P20, 000 and P18, 000 respectively. Position six will get P15, 000 while the last two will get P10, 000 each.
“Times are tough, but we had to at least ensure that the tournament goes ahead and everyone gets something at the end of the competition as usual,” tournament director, Oeme Morupisi said.
Morupisi said the grounds were not up to scratch because of lack of proper care and maintenance. He said for a long time they could not water the pitch due to unpaid bills.
“Our partners recently footed the Water Utilities bill, and we have tried to revive the lawns. The conditions of the grounds were harsh but they are playable now,” he said.
The last edition saw the introduction of two foreign teams, the Vaal University of Technology from South Africa and Bats and Balls from Zimbabwe.
Alongside the two, Thembisa Classic and Mayoung have seen their interest to partake at this year’s Extravaganza turned down.
“It’s unfortunate we could not have our foreign friends this time around due to our very tight budget,” Morupisi said. “They bring exciting competition and we hope things would improve next year and would host a better tournament.”
In other developments, spectators would this year be charged to watch the games. SPEDU Company, Komatsu and Selebi-Phikwe Town Council are the main sponsors of the tournament.