Updated: February 27, 2015

Stephen Mokoka will defend his title at the SA 10km Championships in Pretoria on Saturday morning, while a new women’s champion will be crowned in the absence of Nolene Conrad.
Mokoka, who won the national title in Bloemfontein last year, was ready to spearhead a full-strength Gauteng North team in the capital city, as part of his early preparation for his main targets this year – the World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang at the end of March and the IAAF World Championships in Beijing in August.
“We were selected for the team and our coach said we should run, as this is part of our plans,” Mokoka said.
Mokoka was set to be backed by training partner Gladwin Mzazi, veteran Shadrack Hoff, SA Cross Country Trials winner Precious Mashele, Kgosi Tsosane, Sikhumbuzo Seme and Vuyisile Tshoba, as the Gauteng North squad was due to line up as the clear favourites for the team title.
Derocious Makhobalo and David Radebe (both CGA) were considered among the strongest challengers in an attempt to halt the AGN charge.
Conrad, meanwhile, confirmed she would not compete at the national championships after producing a stunning victory last season.
“I withdrew from the CGA (Central Gauteng Athletics) team,” she said.
“I will be attending a wedding in Cape Town this weekend and we decided to give the SA 10km a skip as I want to focus on my race next weekend in Morocco.
“It’s at a coastal venue so I want to aim at running a fast time there.”
The majority of Conrad’s fellow CGA stars were also set to miss the national championships after Rene Kalmer, Mapaseka Makhanya and Lebogang Phalula were left out the team for skipping the provincial championships.
“This has taught me a valuable lesson,” Phalula said.
“Sometimes we think we’re top athletes so we don’t need to run in these events, and now we’re not in the team. I think it’s a fair decision.”
Kalmer and Phalula were expected to turn out in the 10km race at the Durban Marathon on Sunday, while Makhanya confirmed she would not be racing at all this weekend.
Gauteng North’s Irvette van Zyl, the fastest SA women’s 10km runner in the last 14 years, revealed she had withdrawn from the race due to illness.
“I’m recovering from bad flu and will only race again mid-March,” Van Zyl said.
In their absence, Diana-Lebo Phalula, who won the Spar Women’s Grand Prix last year, was expected to dominate the national championships, with a tough weekend of racing on the cards.
“I will be running SA champs and I’m also running the 10km at the Durban Marathon on Sunday,” Phalula said.
Marathon specialists Cornelia Joubert (CGA) and Tanith Maxwell (KZNA) were perhaps the strongest challengers, on paper at least, in the fight for medals in Pretoria, along with rising CGA star Lorraine Novela.
The SA 10km Championships, to be held at Eersterust Soccer Stadium, will start at 5.45am.
There will also be an open race for non-provincial runners starting at 6am.