Team SA crowned world 8-ball champs

The national 8-ball womens team were crowned the world 8-ball pool champions following their 13-12 win over Australia in Blackpool, England, a fortnight ago. From left, are Debbie Europa, Amy Claire King, Michelle Rabe, manager Anya Roux, Pool SA president Koos Steyn, Madeleine Olivier and Joy Willenberg.

Hard work paid off for Portland’s Debbie Europa and Strandfontein’s Joy Willenberg, members of the five-man SA 8-ball pool women’s team who were crowned world champions in Blackpool, England, a fortnight ago.

The national women’s team beat Australia 13-12 in the final of the world champs. This was SA’s second win against Australia in the competition.

They previously met in the group stages where SA won 15-10. Unlike their cricket counterparts, this Proteas side did not choke when it mattered most.

They booked their spot in the final, following a 13-12 win against hosts England in the semi-finals.

Over the last seven years, they have reached the final once and got knocked out of the world championships for six consecutive years in the semi-finals, on many occasions, by England.

The Proteas women’s team consists of veteran cue sports players from around the country. three of them, including the manager Anya Roux, are from the province.

Roux, who is based in Worcester, she is the former women’s team individual champion of 2012. She started managing the women’s national 8-ball team in 2013.

She said she was in tears when her team won the world championship.

“Heading up to the event we were faced with a lot of challenges, the main challenge was funding. We had to sell T-shirts and get sponsors to help with T-shirts because we weren’t a recognised sport.

“But working with the women, keeping a positive mindset and a hunger to win was crucial.”

Roux said in 2014 they lost in the final to England, and ever since they have lost in the semi-finals. When they won against England, her team had to comfort her because she was overcome by emotion.

“I knew then we were the world champions because England were our biggest rivals. I always tell the team to always believe in themselves and have faith in each other. Champions are made from desire, dream, vision and faith.

“They should never give up, always pursue their dream and keep on fighting. We thank the almighty for the win,” she said.

Willenberg, a former number one in the women’s individual world 8-ball team event, finished eighth in this year’s team championships’ individual stats.

Willenbergcongratulated her team, saying their passion is immeasurable.

“After we managed to come back against England and being able to beat them, that was a big thing. When we met Australia in the final, we didn’t take it lightly because it was the finals and anything can happen in the finals.

This is the first year as the Proteas we were sort of recognised by South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC). Blackpool was more recognised than 8-ball, so I think this gave us that extra confidence,” she said.

Willenberg said there is a positive future for cue sports in the country.

“Like I always say to my team, passion and hard work are important,” she said.

Willenberg said youngsters who are involved with sport should apply hard work and determination.

“When they (youngsters involved in the sport) have a passion for the sport, once they do well in school and get permission from their parents to play, they can do well in the sport. Like I always say to Rushin (Daniels), Tasreeq (Martin) and Marcy (Marchelino James), they should always work hard in school first and be determined to succeed in the sport

Willenberg, Amy Claire King and Michelle Rabie will represent the green and gold at the All Africa Games, in Morocco, in October.

Alongside Willenberg is veteran cue sport player, Debbie Europa, from Portland. Europa’s career took off in 1998 when she started playing for the Proteas. She has played in seven championships, and this year’s competition was a tad more special for the champ, who is contemplating on whether to go on for another year or to call it quits. Europa also finished eighth alongside Willenberg in the individual stats in the team event.

She said she started playing pool 30 years ago when she was 16. Her family, husband, friends and teammates have been her pillar of strength throughout her cue sport journey.

Europa is a member of Lansdowne-based Team Bossi, and is also the vice chairman of the Western Province Pool Union. She said winning the world championship was a dream come true and a goal she set for herself before she retires.

“We just had a strong feeling we can win it.

“Competitive wise, I am done playing. Some ladies still want me to go back and play but I don’t know if I’m still thinking about it.

“I believe and always tell the team to never give up. The goal is to love the game and you will succeed,” said Europa.