Saturday, 30th October saw the second wheelchair basketball game of three at Mandeville, between team South Africa (ranked ninth in the world) and the touring French (ranked second).
On Friday night the exhuberant but exasperated Gallic coach, Franck Belen, had barely been able to contain himself as the Sasol SA squad beat the French 72-66 in a suprise first round upset.
Mandeville was festive for the second game and - with SABC, Soweto TV and Supersport cameras recording events - Charles Saunders of WBSA invited South Africa’s former captain, Marius Papenfus, into the arena to wish him a happy 33rd birthday. But, as they say in the classics, that’s not all! Saturday was not only his birthday, it was also a significant mile stone in South African sports for people with disabilities as Marius became the first South African wheelchair basketball player in the history of the game to achieve 100 international caps!
At the age of 18 a catastrophic vehicle accident left Marius a T12 paraplegic. He began his illustrious career a year later playing for Altech Bladerunners and by 1999 he had been chosen to represent Gauteng North - whom he has represented ever since. Marius was chosen as captain of the Blades in 2001 and, in his first year at the helm, the Bladerunners won the coveted title of SuperSport Series Champions - a feat they would repeat six more times over the next ten years (2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010). From 2003 to 2005 Marius tried his hand overseas, playing in Italy for Santo Stefano in the Italia Series A Division and winning the European Cup in 2003. In 2006 Marius was South Africa’s Player of the Year.
On Saturday Dumisani Mbokane, Sponsorship Specialist for Sasol, proud sponsors of the South African team, took time to congratulate Marius on his momentous achievement. “Sasol is proud to be associated with the achievements of the wheelchair basketball team, especially former captain, Marius Papenfus, as he plays in his 100th test match. We would like to congratulate Marius for this mile stone and hope that he can go on to impart the knowledge that he has acquired to the next generation of players. We know how difficult it is to make any national side, but to go on and represent your country a 100 times is simply awesome. Marius we salute you and wish you well”.
The French heeded their coach’s call to braver battle, taking Saturday’s game 64-50 and Sunday’s game 57-48. True to his nature, Marius did not let Saturday’s excitement go to his head, nor did he rest on his laurels. Top goal scorers for the tournament? Jaco Velloen (38), Marius Papenfus (36) and Thandile Zonke (31). Marius lived up to expectations on his special day with five rebounds and shooting the only three pointer of the game.
Marius spoke to Rolling Inspiration: “A highlight of my career was beating one of the bigger European teams for the first time - Netherlands - in 2007. We were one point down with only three seconds of play left. I scored off two free throws to win the game.”
Memories of his time as captain include: “beating European Champs, Sweden, at the Beijing Paralympics and finishing ninth overall. Beating Morocco in 2007 to qualify for Beijing and beating France to win our first tournament in Europe (2008). The conditions of the Algeria/Morocco tour in 2007, were extremely difficult but the team pulled together, the spirit was fantastic and winning there, under those conditions, is something I will never forget!”