Riaan Venter’s troops break USSA drought

“Take a break, please!” shouts coach Riaan Venter to the players under his direct supervision on the court at the Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds. It is mid-January, a month and a bit removed from the triumph of the North-West University (NWU) Eagles at the University Sports South Africa (USSA) tennis tournament in Makhanda, formerly known as Grahamstown.

It was here in the Eastern Cape, from 1 to 8 December, that the Eagles team that competed in the A section ended a 13-year USSA trophy drought. Not to be outdone, the B section team also claimed top honours. When it rains, it pours.

Now, the renowned tennis aficionado can reflect on a job exceedingly well done.

“Many years of frustration have come to an end,” says Venter. “The pressure is gone, although it should not have taken this long.”

It should be noted that the playing field was not always level for Venter and his squad, but the NWU’s focus has always been primarily on nourishing talent.

“We believe in developing students to reach their potential,” states Venter.

“Last year we also instilled a more disciplined approach and we updated as well as refined our various programmes. We also got our players to participate in bigger tournaments so that they can compete in more competitive matches. At the USSAs we showed so much character and numerous times we had to fight from behind. We made use of many first-year students during the competition. The determination and team spirit were just immense,” explains Venter, who has been coaching at the university for 26 years.

“We were not a tennis university from the start, but we built ourselves up to become one. This year we have recruited some of the top players in the country. Our new clay courts have made a big difference, and our academic focus means that we have a well-rounded structure. It has always been my dream to have a professional tennis set-up coupled with a study-centric approach. That dream is now reaping rewards.”


Submitted on Wed, 01/24/2024 - 09:27