Relying on a balance of youth and experience, the South African ultra-distance team are looking to return to the podium at the IAU 100km World Championships in Berlin, Germany on Saturday 27 August 2022.
Having secured a total of five medals in the individual and team races at the last two editions of the gruelling event, the six-man SA team were brimming with confidence ahead of their departure for the global showpiece in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
"We're well prepared in terms of coaching, and Athletics South Africa (ASA) made financial provisions for all our athletes towards their preparation," said team manager Keith Temmers.
"We are prepared for any contingency and we will have enough time after we arrive to attend to everything that we need to do before the race. It's always a great honour representing South Africa and we will endeavour to make the country proud."
The SA squad features some of the nation's best ultra-distance runners, including former SA 50km record holder Jonas Makhele and Mahlomola Sekhonyana, who finished fourth at the 90km Comrades Marathon in 2019, as well as Renier Grobler, Zukile Vellem, Craig Cynkin and Bongelani Mkhwanazi.
They were set to arrive in Berlin on Wednesday morning, giving them three full days to settle in and adjust to the conditions.
"Most of these guys have never had an opportunity to represent the country and some of them have never been abroad, so for ASA to have given them more days to spend there will really help," said team coach Mdu Khumalo.
"If we arrived a day or two before it would prevent them from being comfortable in a new environment... but we have more than enough time to adjust accordingly."
South Africa will face teams from 34 other countries, with a strong Japanese squad leading the charge, spearheaded by world record holder Nao Kazami and defending champion Hideaki Yamauchi.
Makhele, however, refused to be distracted or intimidated by their opponents, and he was eager to put up a fight.
"I've been disciplined and patient in preparation, and I've just been focusing on training. Luckily I've had no injuries, so I think I'm ready for this," said Makhele, who won the 50km Om die Dam race in Hartbeespoort in June.
"I don't really want to concentrate on anyone else. I just want to focus on myself and trust in my preparation, and my goal is to win the world title."
Cynkin was equally confident of representing the country well, as one of the most consistent athletes in the team.
"There have been different stages of preparation, and the build-up has been a long one so it can never be seamless, but it was very good," Cynkin said.
"So I'm happy with the way my preparation has gone. I'm feeling good and feeling confident."
Enoch Skosana, the ASA road running chairperson, wished the team well. He hoped they would step on the podium once again, reinforcing South Africa's place as a giant of international ultra-distance running.
"These athletes have been preparing and training for this race for a few months, so we are expecting good results," Skosana said.
"We have a strong team, and if they work together, we really believe they can bring home a medal."