The South African Rowing team has been buoyed by the news of new infrastructure improvements to their training base at the Roodeplaat Dam in Pretoria. The addition of three new jetties has brought the facility up to international standards, and will help launch the current and next generation of Olympic and World Champion rowers.

South African rowing is readying itself for another assault on the sporting psyche of the country. After 2012 when the rowing team brought home gold from the London Olympics, it won the hearts of the nation.

This new generation is hard at work on Roodeplaat Dam in Pretoria, with a new coach and a fresh sense of purpose after the challenges they faced at the Tokyo Olympics.

“I am really excited about what we are going to do in Paris or even LA. If we need a little bit more time … but growth is what we are looking for; promotion is what we are looking for I want to promote the growth of our sport because our foundation is our schools our universities our clubs so if we can build the base that will feed into the national team and then i am looking for the strongest the best the fastest athletes,” says Tiago Loureiro, Rowing South Africa Head Coach,” Tiago Loureiro, Rowing South Africa Head Coach.

“Rowing will always be in a good place because the schools are doing such a fantastic job and looking at the sponsors that we are getting RMB Betway, I think we are in a great position right now and with that and coach Tiago Loureiro building up good infrastructure within the coaching structure I think we will be able to sublimate good systems around them and then Rowing South Africa will be in a fantastic place,” says Thato Mokoena, South Africa U23 Rowing Coach.

SA Rowing team gets infrastructure boost:

Rowing will benefit from investment in infrastructure; the three new jetties courtesy of a new sponsor have brought the Roodeplaat course up to international standard.

“When you support any athlete of federation or organisation with the correct infrastructure it benefits them because the athletes have less barriers to get through and can ensure that they improve their own natural talent and also have the correct infrastructure to assist them with that,” David Rachidi, Betway.

For the South African rowing squad, there is plenty to prepare for, from retaining their places in the elite team, to preparing for the world championships and then looking ahead towards the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024. To row in South Africa takes a special level of dedication and commitment to the sport because the athletes don’t always have things their way, but things are changing.

“The infrastructure is really starting to take shape now and before that we just got on with it we don’t flap if there is something out of place I think that makes us quite unique we are tough we’re durable we’re flexible and that really goes a long way when you are lining up on the start line,” says Kirsten McCann, team South Africa rower.

“As the South African national team we’ve had our struggles, I think more so than other nations in terms of funding and investment, Betway have put this facility in and we have a lot of good partners that are backing us and are making it easier and making it more sustainable for us as athletes to perform,” says Sandro Torrente, Team South Africa rower.

One athlete to look out for in the coming years is Thabelo Masuthu, the top under 23 rower in the country. Power and endurance all rolled into one rower, a star in the making, and with a singular goal, to be the very best.

“In the training load you do you just have to have that confidence that every day you make sure you are training the hardest in the world so that on race day you are thinking to yourself that I am the best athlete in the world everyday if you are putting in all the hard work if you are grinding out the miles and each stroke is at a hundred per cent you just need to trust that nobody in the world can match you that on the start line nobody has put in the work that you have and it always pays out,” says Thabelo Masuthu, Team South Africa rower.

The only hurdle in the way of the team is the scourge of water hyacinth which has invaded Roodeplaat dam. It makes rowing almost impossible and keeps the squad off their 2 kilometre world class course. If it persists, it may mean South Africa won’t be able to host the 2023 World Rowing Masters Regatta.

“If you have a dam that looks like this there is no ways that you can hold an event we have a zero tolerance for hyacinth you know even a small piece of hyacinth if a rower hits that they could injure themselves they could damage the boats of equipment it’s just not on we cannot have any hyacinth on the course what so ever,” says Selwyn Jackson, World Rowing Masters Regatta 2023.

The team practices with the ebb and flow of the invasive hyacinth on the dam. It’s not ideal but it’s just another hurdle in their way to competing on the international stage. To become a world class rower takes a special level of grit and determination.