DEPLETED SA RELAY TEAMS CHASING OLYMPIC BERTHS

 
Updated: May 23, 2016

Second-string national teams will make qualifying bids for relay races at the Rio Olympics, in the absence of the country’s elite stars, at the fourth and final leg of the ASA Night Series in Polokwane on Tuesday evening.
With the event billed as a qualifying opportunity for the Rio Games in August, Athletics SA had invited top-ranked individuals to form full-strength national teams at the final domestic meeting of the season.
The majority of the country’s top athletes, however, turned down the invitations in order to focus on the international track and field season, which is now in full swing.
With national record holder Akani Simbine and fellow sub-10 second speedster Henricho Bruintjies unavailable for the senior men’s 4x100m contest, and World Championships 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana sidelined due to injury, a second-tier SA squad will aim to put one foot in the door for a spot in Rio.
Spearheaded by Emile Erasmus and Lebokeng Sesele, who are in a tie for fourth this season in the SA 100m rankings (10.21), they will face quartets from Swaziland, Limpopo and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
In the absence of Carina Horn, Alyssa Conley and Tebogo Mamatu, the national women’s squad in the one-lap race will include Melissa Swanepoel, Maryke Brits, Cherese Jones and Robyn Haupt.
They are expected to line up against provincial squads from Limpopo and Boland, as well as younger quartets including the national youth team and the SA junior squad.
Meanwhile, the SA junior men’s team will turn out in the age group race, as part of their preparation for the World Under-20 Championships in Bydgoszcz in July.
With national youth record holder Gift Leotlela and in-former teenager Clarence Munyai campaigning on the international circuit, they will be anchored by World Youth Championships 200m silver medallist Kyle Appel.
In the 4x400m relays, SA squads will also be eager to deliver fast times in a bid to qualify for the Games.
World champion Wayde van Niekerk is tied up elsewhere and the SA men’s team will be led by experienced athlete Ofentse Mogawane and rising star Jon Seeliger.
They are up against a national B team which includes former World Championships relay silver medallist Willem de Beer and in-form 400m hurdler Lindsay Hanekom, as well as squads from Swaziland, Botswana and Limpopo.
With national champion Caster Semenya and World Student Games gold medallist Justine Palframan unvailable, the SA women’s 4x400m team will be carried by former Olympian Tsholofelo Thipe.
They are set to square off against a squad from Botswana, as well as the national junior and youth outfits.
Finally, in the women’s 8x800m relay, a non-Olympic event, Gena Lofstrand and Anuscha Nice will form part of the SA senior team as they meet a strong Central Gauteng squad spearheaded by Lebogang Phalula.
The men’s 4×1 500m is expected to be scratched from the programme due to a shortage of entries.
In order to qualify for relay events in Rio, South Africa must be ranked among the top 16 countries in the world when the qualifying window closes on July 11.
The top eight teams in each event at last year’s World Relays in the Bahamas received automatic entry for the Games, and with South Africa opting not to compete there, all national squads must be ranked among the next eight countries based on top two aggregate performances during the window period.

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