Updated: July 29, 2016

Sibusiso Nzima will form part of the Central Gauteng team in Port Elizabeth, in preparation for the Olympic marathon (photo credit: Gallo Images)

Hard-fought contests and fast times are expected in both the men’s and women’s races on Saturday, with full-strength provincial teams chasing podium places at the SA Half-Marathon Championships in Port Elizabeth.
All eight men who ran under 63 minutes (1:03:00) at last year’s national championships, also held in Port Elizabeth, were set to return this weekend after being included in their respective provincial teams ahead of the annual race.

Lucky Mohale, who won last year in 1:02:06, and Mbongeni Ngxazozo, who was edged into second in 1:02:07, were named in a strong Central Gauteng squad, which also included in-form Sibusiso Nzima, Gladwin Mzazi and Xolisa Tyali.

Lusapho April (Border), the bronze medallist last year in 1:02:14, and Lungile Gongqa (Western Province), both set to join Nzima in the marathon race at the Rio Olympics next month, were expected to spearhead their provincial teams, while Stephen Mokoka was set to sharpen up for the Olympic 10 000m track contest as part of a powerful Gauteng North outfit.

Mokoka, the SA 10km record holder on the road, would line up alongside the likes of Vuyisile Tshoba and Kgosi Tsosane.

While defending women’s champion Diana-Lebo Phalula was not included in the Central Gauteng team, her twin sister Lebogang, who was second last year in 1:12:18 (24 seconds behind her sibling), would spearhead the squad with the backing of last year’s bronze medallist Cornelia Joubert, Mapaseka Makhanya and Keneilwe Sesing.

Title favourite Irvette van Zyl, due to line up with Diana-Lebo Phalula and Christine Kalmer in the Rio marathon, and ultra-marathon star Caroline Wostmann were geared up to lead the Gauteng North team.

Former national marathon champion Zintle Xiniwe was included among the Western Province entries, and Jenet Dlamini, in good form this season, was set to spearhead the KwaZulu-Natal squad.

Tanith Maxwell (Western Province) was tipped as the clear favourite in the veteran women’s race, after turning 40 last month, while SA marathon record holder Gert Thys (Western Province) and former track star Shadrack Hoff (Gauteng North) were expected to join the front runners in the veteran men’s contest.