Ursula Grobler and Kirsten McCann, from left. Picture: EPA/PETER
Ursula Grobler and Kirsten McCann, from left. Picture: EPA/PETER

SA’s rowers picked up two victories against tough competition at the Paolo d’Aloja regatta in Piediluco‚ Italy‚ at the weekend‚ in the men’s four and lightweight women’s single sculls.

The annual competition offered separate races on Saturday and Sunday‚ which allowed national coach Roger Barrow the opportunity to mix up his squads.

The men’s four of David Hunt‚ Sandro Torrente‚ Kyle Schoonbee and Jake Green were third in Saturday’s A-final‚ just 1.34sec behind the European champion Romanians and 0.27sec behind Italy‚ the second-placed world championship runners-up.

But when Olympic medallists Lawrence Brittain and John Smith were brought in to team up with Hunt and Green on Sunday‚ they turned the tables on the field and powered to victory ahead of Italy‚ Serbia and Romania.

Brittain and Smith‚ the Under-23 pair world champions in 2010‚ teamed up again as they ended second in the men’s pair A-final on Saturday‚ more than 5sec behind Romania’s world championship silver medallist crew of Marius-Vasile Cozmiuc and Ciprian Tudosa.

But Brittain was rowing strokeside for the first time in more than seven years.

Behind him and Smith in fourth was the Italian outfit that included 2017 world champion Giuseppe Vicino and SA’s second pair‚ Luc Daffarn and Charles Brittain in sixth spot.

Barrow said there was a small margin between his squad’s top heavyweight men‚ adding he would put them into three pairs and two fours at the SA championships next weekend.

“I’ll be keeping the squad on their toes‚” he said.

Ursula Grobler won the lightweight women’s single sculls by more than 3sec on Saturday‚ ahead of young Italian Paola Piazzolla‚ a three-time under-23 world champion in the quadruple sculls.

Nicole van Wyk and Kirsty McCann‚ in the unfamiliar position of stroke in the lightweight double sculls boat‚ ended second behind world champions Ionela-Livia Cozmiuc and Gianina-Elena Beleaga of Romania by just 0.83sec on Saturday.

In Sunday’s switch‚ Van Wyk ended second behind Piazzolla in the singles while McCann and Grobler remained second behind the Romanians‚ this time by 2.10sec.

Barrow said the three double sculls contenders would all race single sculls at the national championships‚ but added he would name the double sculls team for the second World Cup regatta in Poland in June within two weeks.

Also on Sunday‚ Schoonbee and Torrente were fourth in the men’s pair and Luc Daffarn and Charles Brittain sixth.

And in the eights SA’s heavyweights ended fourth‚ nearly 9sec  behind the victorious Romanians but less than a second off the podium.

The SA squad is preparing for the world championships in Austria in late August.