Leading bowlers this weekend at the singles championship in Pta


By Gert de Jager

A total of 80 of South Africa’s leading bowlers will be in action from Friday in Pretoria during the SA Masters Singles Championship.

The tournament takes place at the Wingate Country Club and can rightly be considered the showcase of bowling in South Africa.

Several current and former Protea players are among the participants. Gerry Baker, Jason Evans, Bobby Donnelly, Colleen Piketh and Susan Nel are among the most experienced players in the field, with the younger Proteas and other provincial players who will heat things up for each other.

There is competition in six divisions: the men‑ and women’s open, men’s and women’s veterans (60yrs+) and junior men and women (under 30s).

Four of the six master titles were won by local players from BGN (Bowls Gauteng North) in 2023 when the tournament was hosted in the Western Cape. Niksa Benguric (men’s open), Francois Koen and Sue Tarr (veterans) and Marizelle Rousseau (juniors) were then the champions.

Whether home field advantage will count in their favor remains to be seen.

Protea Benguric’s first match tomorrow in division 1 is against Kholwani Khanyile, who was the junior masters champion last year. No one will simply forget Kholwani’s last delivery – with which he “rolled away” the title in front of Cecil Bornman’s nose, as it were -.

The other Protea players in division 1 are Jason Evans and Wayne Rittmuller, with Wilson Malobolo, Shaun Thomas, Billy Radloff and André Rousseau completing the eight.

Evans was the masters champion in 2022 when he beat Gerry Baker at Wingate. He and Benguric will face each other on Saturday at 13:00 in both their seventh and final games of play in division 1.

Evans is a masters specialist who has won the title four times in the past six tournaments.

Matthews Phiri, who narrowly lost to Benguric in the Masters in 2023, competes in Division 2.

With four Proteas – Bradley Robinson, Victor Siphale, Brendan Ferns and Wayne Roberts – also competing here, predicting a winner is almost like predicting the winner of the Durban July. The other players are Gerry Baker, Paul White and Martin Lewis.

Johlene Bronkhorst from the Eden district in the Southern Cape was last year’s women’s open champion and she takes on the young Protea player Francesca Baleri in her first match in division 1 on Saturday at 09:00.

The experienced Colleen Piketh, as well as two more Proteas, Bridget Calitz and Marizelle Rousseau, also play in the division along with Esme Haley, Sega Mokoto and Claire Cowan. Piketh was the masters champion in 2022.

In division 2, Dezi Rosenblatt and Esme Kruger’s Protea experience will suit them well. The other participants in the division are Nici Neal, Leone du Rand, Annelie de Jager, Natalie Botha, Elma Louw and Charlotte Rossouw.

Francois Koen’s last delivery during the 2023 Masters earned him the veterans title, and his knowledge of Wingate’s limits could allow him to build on that in division 1 of the veterans.

Theuns Fraser, Robbie Piketh, Brian Dial, Callie van der Merwe and Gianni Gatti are the other players in the division.

In division 2 the six players are Bobby Donnelly, Stoffel Lambrechts, Kenny Kyriacou, John Connellan, Mark Beviss-Channilor and Gene Hill.

Hill is playing in place of Rudi Jacobs who passed away last week.

The late Jacobs (63) acquired his Protea colors in 1998 and was the runner-up both times in 2022-23.

Fitness and concentration always play an important role in bowling and with the current heat this will be even more the case in the battle between the 12 players in the women’s veterans where Sue Tarr will defend her title.

Tarr is in division 1 and the other players are Nan Roos, Heather Pembroke, Louise Wessels, Glenda Matthews and Cherry-Ann Mills.

Susan Nel’s (2023 runner-up) opponents in Division 2 are Sandy Smart, Lyn Lambert, Pam Cole-Cook, Linda Stringer and Jenny Jones.

Last but not least are the junior men and women. Although still young, it certainly does not lack experience and interesting game patterns.

In the men’s division, Charles Mathewson, the Protea from the Northern Cape, will stand well ahead of his fellow players in division 2.

With irons such as Nomatter Muvhango, Alwyn Martignone, Lethabo Mathibela, Micus Grech and Adrian Bocklem also there, a tough battle is expected.

In division 1 of the juniors, Cecil Bornman has the home court advantage. The other players are Josh Turner, Driaan van Niekerk, Adi Esau, Terrance McGlynn and David Nel.

A new champion will have to be crowned in the junior women, because 2023’s winner, Marizelle Rousseau, is now playing in the open division.

Gillian Young, 2022’s junior champion at the very Wingate, has five competitors in division 2 are the two Proteas Thabelo Muvhango and Panashe Ziramba, as well as Jackie Rabie, Shannon Davies and Alecea Snyder.

Emma Murphy leads the charge in division 1 and her opponents are Luané du Plessis, Zune Waters, Lolly Skingle, Leila Snyman and Lezandri Hildebrand.

For those who do not live in Pretoria and surrounding areas, there is also good news: There will be daily live coverage of certain matches in all the different divisions.

For RNews readers who have not yet watched “chess on grass”, the broadcasts will hopefully entice them to learn more about the game.

The finals of the six divisions take place on Sunday.