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Setting the benchmark in the Pan

By: Battle of the Sports

Three of South Africa’s top rugby heroes, John Smit, Schalk Brits and Hanyani Shimange, have returned to Johannesburg with team leader Erik Vermeulen and team manager, Butch James having successful completed the 200km BrightRock fundraising Battle of the Sports challenge.

For the last four days the team have had to endure scorching temperatures in the arid saltpan landscape, bleeding feet, punctured tyres and physical exhaustion as they circumnavigated the famous Verneukpan in the dry Northern Cape, fighting the clock at every step to set a critical benchmark for each of the three teams to follow.

Commenting on the experience, Erik Vermeulen says he is completely blown away by the way the players jelled so quickly and the close camaraderie that developed between the three. “They really were an amazingly strong and efficient team and it was incredible to see how they translated the lessons and disciplines they practice on the field into this new environment.”

Smit echoes this sentiment saying in spite of the tough challenge there was never a question of giving up and each and every team member had each other’s back. “When things got really tough the banter would start to keep us distracted and motivated. Shimmy was a constant source of amusement. Another saving grace were our four playlists. Each of the guys had put one together and the music really helped us through the dark times. Our biggest challenge was if our speaker batteries ran flat,” quips Smit.

In terms of overall feelings on how they have done, Schalk Brits says in typical rugby fashion where they are always taught to push boundaries, he feels they came out too strong on day 1 doing an incredible 70km. “We quickly realised how important it was to conserve our energy levels in the beating heat so we regrouped quickly and definitely learnt a lot from the challenge.”

Arriving home the spirit amongst the team remains high.  “We are so proud of what we have achieved and how the team remained firm in their commitment to support one another and finish strong for such a good cause. There was never a question of us not finishing. This has been such a great team experience and definitely like nothing we have ever experienced before,” concludes Smit.  

All funds raised for the BrightRock Battle of the Sports will be used to effect positive change by helping raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts in South Africa. “We are appealing to all sports loving South Africans to support their heroes by taking part in their own 200km challenge over the next 4 weeks and donating to Events to Aid to assist all patients and health care workers in critical care facilities throughout South Africa in need of PPE, oxygen and vaccines. Anyone wanting to show support can just visit the Battle of the Sports website and register for the 200km challenge.  “This event is the ultimate race of a lifetime and we could not be prouder of our first competing team,” concludes Events to Aid, CEO, Clive Grinaker.

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