Team SA crowned world 8-ball champs

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 the five-member SA 8-ball pool women’s team who were crowned world champions in Blackpool, England, a fortnight ago.

The national women’s team had three players from the Western Cape in Debbie Europa and Joy Willenberg from Cape Town and team manager Anya Roux from Worcester.

They 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.

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.

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.

“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 as the SA under-18 boys’ side went all the way to the semi-final, before losing 13-12 against Australia.

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

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

Europa’s career took off in 1998 when she started playing for the Proteas. She started playing pool 30 years ago and has played in seven world championships. She counts her husband, friends and teammates as her pillar of strength throughout her journey.

“Competitive wise, I am done playing. Some still want me to play but I don’t know. I believe and always tell the team to never give up. The goal is to love the game and you will succeed,” said Europa.