SAS, the choice of champions



Words & Photos: Eunice Visagie

Eunice Visagie

With sport becoming more and more competitive locally and internationally, the demand for world-class training facilities in South Africa has been at an all time high. In the past three years, since its establishment, the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport (SAS) has become the training destination of choice for various champions from all over the world and various sporting codes.

The Junior Springboks, who won the World Junior Championships in 2012, have also stayed at SAS.

SAS is a world-class facility that offers indoor and outdoor training fields, a state-of-the-art gym, access to leading sports scientists, doctors, coaches, physiotherapists and biokineticists, cutting-edge conference facilities, comfortable athlete accommodation and performance-nutrition catering. According to Rob Benadie, CEO of SAS, the vision is to be recognised as a world-class, professional sport training and preparation environment.

After hosting the national triathlon squads of Austria and Poland, Spanish triathletes Javier Gomez and Mario Mola – the two hottest athletes on the World Triathlon Series (WTS) – stayed at SAS during April. Gomez is the current World Champion and well on his way to an unprecedented fourth world title this season. Gomez won the World Triathlon Series (WTS) in Auckland, Cape Town, Yokohama and Chicago. Mola won his first WTS in London and is currently third in the series. Gomez has trained in Stellenbosch before, but it was his first time at SAS. He stayed there with his coach, Carlos Prieto. "I like the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport because it is a peaceful place and the staff very helpful and friendly. There is a great gym and the grass running tracks are very close to the academy. I would recommend this place for training camps to any coach," said Prieto.

For Mola, who is part of the Joel Filliol Training (JFT) squad, it was his first time in Stellenbosch. "It was a great experience. The staff and set up at SAS allowed us to focus on training, providing us with everything we needed to work hard and well. Awesome accommodation and nice food, very good training facilities, nice weather, etc. The atmosphere at SAS and in Stellenbosch was fabulous. I enjoyed myself so much." Mola recommends SAS as a training destination saying, "All the benefits make it an ideal place for triathlon training."

World-renowned coach Joel Filliol was also very impressed with the set up. "The Stellenbosch Academy of Sport has been a good choice for our pre-Cape Town Triathlon World Series camp. The location makes for easy access to the university's facilities and trails, and has good roads for cycling. The accommodation is of a high standard and the meals are taken care of, leaving us to focus on our preparation."

The Springbok Sevens squad calls SAS home. The BlitzBokke won the gold medal at this year's Commonwealth Games, ending New Zealand’s domination of the Games. They also finished the IRB World Series in second place, only a few points behind New Zealand. They won the World Series events in Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas and played in three World Series finals. Justin Geduld was part of the World Team. The Junior Springboks won the World Junior Championships in 2012, the first time they stayed at SAS. This year they became the first South African rugby team to beat New Zealand in Auckland twice. They lost the final by one point to England.

SAS offers a state-of-the-art gym.

Since its establishment, SAS has become the training destination of choice for various champions from all over the world and various sporting codes.

Stellenbosch is a town where the focus on soccer (football) has been growing steadily, especially in the past few years, so it comes as no surprise that SAS has hosted a few soccer teams, including the Dutch football club PEC Zwolle. The Dutch club won its first trophy when they beat Ajax in the final of the KNVB Cup this past season. This trophy is often referred to as the Dutch Cup and is the same as England’s FA Cup. Former winners of this trophy include Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV. "PEC Zwolle chose SAS as their training destination because of the quality of the sport facilities. The people of SAS are professional and the food is focused on athletes. It’s the perfect place for a good preparation of the season," said Gerard Nijkamp, PEC Zwolle's technical director.

They are the number one team in the world, they are the Olympic Champions and now also the World Champions – the Dutch women’s hockey team has been staying at SAS for the past two years.

The Australian Aussie Rules football team, Hawthorne Hawks, stayed at SAS in December 2013. "When deciding amongst training venues in South Africa, we chose SAS because we were blown away by the professionalism from their staff, the training and accommodation facilities and their ability to foster and enhance an elite training environment," said Chris Nanni, football operations coordinator.

Legendary Linford Christie has also walked the corridors of SAS when the UK Athletics squad stayed at SAS at the start of the year. The High Performance Director of UK Athletics, Neil Black, was very impressed with the service the squad got. "SAS is a great training venue for British athletes, as it provides a professional training environment to accommodate our staff and athletes in one place and it is close to the athletics' track at Stellenbosch University. Stellenbosch, a location that we have been coming to for the past five years, has a warm, sunny climate during the typically cold winter months back in the UK, so it’s a fantastic place to train. The staff at SAS provide a wonderful service, going above and beyond to make sure we have everything we need."

The University of Pretoria and North West University in Potchefstroom each have a High Performance Centre that has hosted various athletes and teams since the early 2000s.

More information
For more information visit, follow them on Twitter @sas_training_za and like the Facebook page Stellenbosch Academy of Sport.

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