Pietermaritzburg – Brothers Richard  and Nhlanhla Cele of the Change A Life academy threw the cat amongst the pigeons and sent out a strong warning to the rest of the elite The Unlimited Dusi canoe marathon field when they claimed a shock victory in the tough Campbell’s Farm to Dusi Bridge race on the weekend.

The siblings took the line honours ahead of many top Dusi title contenders in the key race that incorporates most of the tough paddling and portaging sections of The Unlimited Dusi first stage on water levels exactly the same as that predicted for the big race in a fortnights time.

“It was a very tough race and we had to work very hard so we are very happy to have won,” enthused Richard Cele. “It is our first win together so we are very proud.”

Adding further mystery to the duo’s surprise success was the fact that until recently they weren’t going to tackle the Dusi together and were instead slated to race with other members of the academy.

“We only formed this combination when our other partners dropped us but I’m really enjoying paddling with my brother. We discuss everything and we always talk about exactly what we want to do so it has been really nice,” said Richard Cele.

“Neither of us is lazy so we’ve been working very hard together and we are feeling very strong at the moment,” he added.

The stunning win however disguises the fact that Nhlanhla Cele is carrying an ankle injury that might prove decisive to their hopes of a Dusi podium finish.

“We have been paddling and running very well but we’ll just have to see how Nhlanhla’s ankle is before the race,” said Richard Cele. “We could only paddle together last week because he couldn’t run but I have still been running hard.”

This result, along with their third at the Best 4 Healthcare Rietvlei Rumble and a string of solid finishes in the past few weeks, has cemented their status as genuine top five contenders who could well threaten the podium.

“We paddled last year’s Swartland in the Cape together and then the Berg, which is a four day race which is very difficult so I think that has made a big difference to why we have been doing better in the past three months,” said Cele.

“We’ve been working hard and have watched Bungee (Thulani Mbanjwa) and the other guys for a while now so hopefully it will be our turn soon.”

Careful guidance by multiple Dusi winner and Change A Life head coach Martin Dreyer has kept the pair’s feet firmly on the ground however the talented Cele brothers are quietly lingering in the wings, ready to pounce on the slightest mistakes the supposed ‘big names’ may make and could well be this year’s surprise package.

“We are hoping to finish in the top ten at Dusi and if we can beat Kwanda (Mhlope) and Lance Kime then we will be very surprised but very happy,” said Richard Cele.

“Our main goal is to finish ahead of Thomas Ngidi and John (Ngcobo) and Lucas (Mthalane) and Mmeli (Cele),” he added.