Dusi greats tip Birkett and Zondi for 2014 glory

Pietermaritzburg – Former Dusi champions Martin Dreyer and Ant Stott have both tipped the crew of Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi to win this year’s Dusi Canoe marathon that starts at Camps Drift on Thursday 13 February.

“On paper there is one crew to win it this year – Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi,” said Stott, normally diplomatic and non-committal. “But, remember this is the Dusi and anything can happen,” he added as a rider.

Stott, who has won the Dusi four times, says that a low river may result in a closer margin between Birkett and Zondi and their strongest rivals Lance Kime and Thulani Mbanjwa, but that the superior paddling power of Birkett and Zondi should have too much power and will prevail in the end.

Anticipating a close race Stott said that if the two protagonists were side by side at the end of the second stage, the race might come down to which crew gets onto the narrow path going up the Burma Road portage first.

Dreyer, a seven times winner of the Dusi, also shortlisted the 2014 winner to the same two crews, but had Birkett and Zondi as his favourites to win because they had formed a closer bond during their preparations for the race.

“Sbonelo (Zondi) and Andy (Birkett) are super-focused right now because they have eaten, slept and drunk the Dusi together all summer. They have been living in each other’s bags, and that counts in the end,” said Dreyer.

“As a crew they are paddling really strongly and we all know how well Andy (Birkett) has been paddling this past year, with his win at the Under 23 world marathon championships,” he added. “Remember how he took on Hank McGregor at the recent N3TC Drak Challenge and won?”

“It has been difficult for Lance (Kime) and Bungee (Thulani Mbanjwa) with Lance having to head back to Stellenbosch to university, but they will be right there. It will be a two horse race, “ said Dreyer.

He added that the powerful surfski duo of marathon world champ Hank McGregor and his Cape partner Jasper Mocké would come into the race more and more as it progressed, but felt they wouldn’t be within striking distance come the third and final stage into Blue Lagoon.

Stott speculated that a few of the lesser fancied crews could finish in the top five, and will be poised to capitalise on the smallest mistake by anyone of the top three fancied crews.

“Watch out for Ben Biggs and Karl Folscher,” said Stott. “Jakub Adam and Cam Schoeman are also going to have a good race,” he predicted. “Keep an eye on Kwanda Mhlope and Zonele Nzuza, and Shaun Griffin and Jacques Theron will also be there or thereabouts,” he added.

The Dusi Canoe Marathon 2014 starts in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday 13 February and ends in Durban on Saturday 15 February 2014. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za

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Dusi icons Ant Stott and Martin Dreyer have both tipped the crew of Sbonelo Zondi (Back) and Andy Birkett) to win the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon. Terry Haywood/ Gameplan Media

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