Surprise pairing: Birkett and Nzimande to tackle the Dusi

Nine-time Dusi Canoe champ Andy Birkett will take on the 2020 race with Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy star, Khumbulani Nzimande.

Birkett and long-time K2 partner Hank McGregor had plans to defend the Dusi K2 title they won in 2018, but McGregor has been battling the shingles virus and had to pull out.

It was a tough decision as time was running out to prepare properly, with the 2020 Dusi to take place from February 27-29.

“Hank and I had been chatting and with the clock ticking we had to make a decision,” Team Euro Steel star Birkett said.

“It was a tough call but it’s just one race and I know that Hank will be back stronger and racing harder when he recovers.”

Khumbulani Nzimande will be hoping to follow up his impressive K1 fourth place Dusi Canoe Marathon finish last year with a strong performance, when he teams up with Andy Birkett next year. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

With Thulani Mbanjwa and Sbonelo Khwela having confirmed that they will be competing at the 2020 Dusi together, Birkett chatted to his coach Andrew Booyens, who suggested that 24-year-old Nzimande was more than capable to partner him.

“Andrew also coaches Khumbulani and he said that I shouldn’t think twice,” said Birkett.

“He (Khumbulani) finished fourth at last year’s race in a K1 and, more importantly, he is a great guy, which is vital. It’s crucial that Dusi partners get along and that there is a level of respect,” Birkett added.

Not all according to plan

The recent ICF Canoe Marathon Championships didn’t go according to plan for Birkett, however he feels revitalised and ready to take on the new season.

“I am more exciting about the river season than I have been in a while.

“I am really looking forward to getting back on the river and I have been enjoying my time in the sea too. I have raced and trained a lot in the ocean and it’s been fantastic.”

Training camp

Nzimande will join Birkett in East London for a training camp leading up to the new year.

“Khumbulani will come and stay with me for a few days and we will do some training.”

The 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from February 27-29, 2020. Entry details and more information can be found at www.dusi.co.za

Main picture, top: Andy Birkett (pictured) has confirmed that he will be competing in the 2020 Dusi with Khumbulani Nzimande from the Change a Life Academy. Nzimande finished fourth (K1) in last year’s event. Picture: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media