The 2016 edition of the annual Swarovski Steel Gong Challenge, in the “Two Man Team” format, was hosted by the KZN Hunting and Conservation Association’s Upper Tugela Branch at Platrand Lodge Private Reserve just outside Ladysmith on 5 March.
Whylo Optical Distributors, the official sole distributors of Swarovski Products in South Africa, sponsored the day. The prizes, including Swarovski binoculars, rifle telescopes and much more, were valued at approximately R90 000.
The “Two Man Team” format was used once again, with the basic rules of the SA Hunting Rifle Shooting Association being adopted.  This format is proving to be very popular and many competitors from far and wide across South Africa came to enjoy the challenge.  The element of fun and spectator value which is experienced when the crack of the gong sounds has found great appeal amongst competitors and spectators alike.

As a result, the number of competitors has grown over the years, and this year was no exception, with 60 teams participating, many of them being returning competitors from previous years.

The competition consisted of six ranges with five gongs per range. The distance of the closest gong on each range was given this year to assist the teams. The furtherest gong in the whole competition was 350m, with the majority of the gongs being between 200m and 280m.  The positions were set out to simulate typical easier shooting positions while hunting. The standard size of a gong is 200mm, but to spice matters up, a smaller 150mm gong was included in each of the six ranges.

After the morning’s registration, coffee and briefing, the teams were divided into six groups.  Each group was allocated a range officer and a range to start at.  After three ranges were shot, delicious wors rolls were enjoyed at the lodge, after which the teams set off to shoot the last three ranges.  The shoot was completed by
mid afternoon.

The ranges were set out as follows:

Range 1. Prone position over X-bags – Closest gong 280m – furthest gong 350m.
Range 2. Any position over hay bales. – Closest gong 220m – furthest gong 275m.
Range 3. Any position over log. – Closest gong 180m – furthest gong 280m.
Range 4. Standing over long shooting sticks.- Closest gong 155m – furthest gong 180m.
Range 5. Prone over filled bank bag on rock.- Closest gong 200m – furthest gong 315m.
Range 6. Sitting over short shooting sticks. –  Closest gong 195m – furthest gong 300m.

The day was concluded with prize giving and a delicious meal provided by Platrand Lodge.

The junior prize was won by the all-girls team of Linelle and Dane Lemmer. The mixed prize was won by Pieter Ackerman and Elize van den Heever. The open class was won by Rob Fortman and Johannes Schoeman with a score of 56 hits out of 60 gongs. In second place was Rupert Dedekind and Turner Wilkinson (52/60), while third place went to Hein Snibbe and Christie Marias (50/60).  Congratulations to all the winners.

There were no full scores for the day but it was interesting to note the high quality of marksmanship on display by the competitors, with 63% of the teams shooting 50% or more of the gongs.

It was good to see more juniors and ladies participating this year, and we hope that these categories continue to grow in the future. A huge thank you must be extended to Andrew Whysall for his support and sponsorship of the shoot and the sport, and to Trevor Wroe-Street from Whylo for all the effort that he put in.

Thank you to Jabu and his team at Platrand Lodge for all their hard work in making the day so enjoyable.  We are privileged to be able to host the shoot at such an awesome venue. Lastly on behalf of Reggie Gerber and I, a big thank you to all who helped us to make the shoot the fun, safe and enjoyable day it was intended to be.

We look forward to a bigger and better shoot next year. Thank you to all who participated in such good spirits.  You are all invited to bring your friends and family and join us again next year.

Till then, keep the gongs “KLAPPING”!
Reggie and Ralf