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MBABANE – It’s a super national play-offs draw, as the race for places in the Morocco-bound senior men’s pool national team begins.

After successfully having the regional play-offs last weekend, the Eswatini Cue Sports Association (ECSA) held its next stage draw, the national play-offs stage which sees the seeded current national team stars also get into action this weekend. The highlight of the draw and fixtures as shared in the ECSA Facebook group yesterday morning, was the Group H clash between Dixie’s International Pool League and Knockout champions Royal Eswatini Police Service (REPS) Pool Team star player, Sibusiso Nhlabatsi against Correctional Services’ revered Flag Nxumalo.

The latter was the head coach of the men’s national team in April this year during the All Africa Blackball Championships 2022 in Zambia. This time, the next tournament is every player’s dream; the world cup will get underway in October. It is officially known as the World Blackball Championships, which Eswatini once hosted in 2008. The two, arguably the country’s most decorated players, go head-to-head in their group, which also has Welcome Mthupha and Mzwandile Magongo. They will play the opening match in the group, with the top two players per group qualifying for the last 16; these two are favourites to progress. Nhlabatsi was also in the squad that travelled to Zambia and saw a few individuals get top 10 Africa rankings, while a few others, including members of the ladies national team, made the top 20.

Another highlight match is in Group C, whereby REPS and top 10 Africa-ranked Sithembiso ‘Dodge’ Matsebula will have a date with Way Inn’s talented veteran player, Nathi Hleta, who also runs his own pool playing arena in the capital city and will host some of the play-off matches on Saturday. ECSA Secretary Mbongeni ‘Mdlikiza’ Gamedze confirmed the draw and fixtures, which also sees Malkerns Pool Team’s youngster Bandzile ‘Suarez’ Gama, only 14 years old and doing Form I at St John Bosco High School in Malkerns seemingly having a tricky draw after avoiding the big names in Group E.

‘Suarez’ stunned big guns in the regional play-offs under the Manzini Regional Pool Association (MRPA), as he won all the games against REPS’ Xolani Mbingo, Manzini Pool Club’s Eddie Mkhonta and Way Inn’s Sandile ‘Ngula’ Gama. “We will use Correctional Services in Matsapha, Malkerns next to Stairs and also have games in Mbabane as we have a new pool arena with four tables towards EBIS,” Gamedze explained. He said they aimed at having the men’s new national team finalised by Sunday afternoon at Correctional Services, where they will have the last eight play a round-robin to determine the squad’s five players and the three to be on standby. In essence, this meant the last 32 and last 16 will be played on Saturday to determine the last eight.

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