Mr Temba Bungane, a teacher assistant at Kingswood College was named earlier this year as the Assistant Coach for the Men’s SA U17 National Water Polo Team. Temba, along with the U17 South African Boys Water Polo team traveled recently to the Czech Republic to compete in the U17 EU Nations Water Polo Tournament. The team went on to win gold at the tournament!

Temba is also the NMB U16A Boys Coach for the Interprovincial Schools Water Polo event later this year. Shortly after being announced as part of the coaching staff for the SA U17 Men’s Team, Temba Bungane and the team had a training camp in Cape Town in August. A month later he ad the team held a selection camp in Durban in which a team of 13 athletes were selected to attend the U17 EU Nations Water Polo Tournament held in Brno, Czech Republic. Before the team left, they had a one day of training together as a team in Johannesburg, it was the first time that the boys had trained together. Team SA were put in Group A, alongside Scotland, Switzerland and the tournament hosts, the Czech Republic.

The SAU17 Team started their campaign with a convincing victory against Switzerland winning 15-5. It was the first international match that some of the boys had experienced in over two years and for others it was their first experience of international water polo as well as it being the first match the team played together with new combinations and teammates to adapt to. With that in mind, there were a lot of nerves which led to mistakes but the team learned and gelled as the game progressed.

Game two Team SA were up against a Scotland side that can never be underestimated as they are an unknown quantity, we went on to win that game 24-5. The scoreline is quite subjective on paper but for those who were part of the game will tell you that the score is a little misleading. Scotland certainly caused us to think on our “toes” so to speak and find solutions as the game unfolded. In the end, it was a good exercise for the team to put into play the strategy that we wanted to implement in the tournament.

Game three was against the tournament hosts, Czech Republic, who were fit, well drilled and who had out-scored our results against Scotland and Switzerland. There was pressure on both teams as the winner of the game would top the group which meant that they would get a more favourable semi-final. Team SA started strong, controlling and dominating the first half of the game. The second half was a bit more chaotic/frenzied. At one point of the game Team SA went four goals up but credit must be due to the Czech Team, spurred on by a very passionate and patriotic fan who would not stop chanting for the team, they pulled the back to within a goal to tie the score. We held our nerve to win the game 8-7, but we knew that we had to work on our game management skills and had to work on reacting quicker to teams who change their strategy. With the benefit of hindsight, this would eventually be the final as well.

Game four, a semi-final against Lithuania. Lithuania were a very tricky side causing problems for all the teams that they came up against, though it was a more favourable semi-final, in a play-off game anything can happen. Lithuania frustrated Team SA immensely throughout the game with their tricks to the point where we had to approach the game completely differently to how we planned in the beginning of the game. Unfortunately for Lithuania, the game coincided with Team SA clicking and gelling, the boys had been playing together for some time by then which allowed the combinations and team cohesion to develop and grow. It was Team SA’s best game of the tournament thus far.

Game five, the final against Czech Republic (again). The game was billed as the “revenge game” for the Czechs who had garnered more support and drums for that game. Fortunately, Team SA did not go into that game without support of their own, two sets of parents joined us for the tour and England, Scotland and Switzerland chanted for us which we appreciated. “No two games are the same”, that saying was emphasised in the final. Team SA controlled the game from start to finish, not allowing Czech Republic to gain too much momentum at any given moment. The strategy the team set out to impose worked as best it could to give us the best possible result which was 11-6 to the South African U17 Men’s Water Polo Team.

The tour and tournament was an amazing experience for all who were involved, representing your country fills you with pride and patriotism. For Temba Bungane personally, it was informative and served him very well in his development and growth as a water polo coach. It must also be said that for Temba, winning isn’t everything, it’s always nice winning gold, having won gold with the Kingswood Boy’s 1st Team at the Provincial Co-Eds Tournament a month earlier.

We look forward to seeing Temba take on the role as Assistant Coach to the U18 SA Men’s side in 2022. This team will compete at the National Youth World Championships in Australia next year.