Non-stop for Mbanjwa, Zondi?

2011-03-03 00:00

THREE-TIME Non-stop champion and Valley of a Thousand Hills hero Michael Mbanjwa has teamed up with last year’s winner and rising talent­ Eric Zondi for this year’s The Unlimited Non-stop Dusi tomorrow.

Mbanjwa and Zondi finished third and fourth respectively in The Unlimited Dusi and now will look to work together as they tackle the no rules, one-day ultra marathon from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

“They will definitely be the ones to catch,” said four-time Dusi­ winner Ant Stott. “They’ve both done this race a couple of times now and they’ve won it so they have all the experience they need.

“They’ll know beforehand how they’ll be feeling at various stages throughout the day as well as knowing how hard they can push themselves.”

Mbanjwa in particular couldn’t have asked for a better grounding. Having spent countless hours training with Dusi Duke Martin Dreyer en route to their Non-stop double in 2007 and 2008, Mbanjwa will now look to draw on all the knowledge and understanding he obtained as he becomes the experienced partner.

He is also a cult figure in the Valley of a Thousand Hills and in particular in the community around Nagle Dam where he has his own homestead.

“This is my secret weapon,” he enthuses. “I get unbelievable support from the people who live there and it makes such a big difference, especially when you are tired.

“That happens a lot in the Non-Stop Dusi and you can use that support to pick you up,” he said.

In recent years though, Zondi has proved just how strong he is as well.

He and his partner Thomas Ngidi finished­ second in 2009 and then went on to claim the overall honours in a historic win in 2010 and he’ll be keen to make it two from two.

Zondi bagged a popular fourth in The Unlimited Dusi a fortnight ago, outracing established stars such as Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins.

With a solid paddling background and an intimidating ability running portages­, many experts are wondering when he will become a Dusi winner.

The combination of Mbanjwa and Zondi for The Unlimited Dusi pools the two undisputed top runners with a boat into the same crew and they will be hoping that the hot dry weather continues to produce a low river that will favour the faster runners over the strong paddlers.

However, defending champ Thomas­ Ngidi is not about to let the favourites help themselves to his crown and with a new partner in Nhlanhla­ Cele, the two of them remain upbeat about their chances.

“We all know Eric [Zondi] and Michael [Mbanjwa] are great runners and very good paddlers and together they will be very strong,” said Ngidi.

“However, I’m paddling with my cousin Nhlanhla Cele and both of us are very happy about this so I wouldn’t underestimate us if I were them. I really believe we also have what it takes to win this race.”

The Unlimited Non-stop Dusi starts at 5.30 am tomorrow at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg and ends at the Blue Lagoon in Durban.

— Gameplan Media.

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