By Doreen Premdev

The atmosphere was electric at the Sun City Superbowl on Saturday night, as Miss South Africa hopefuls gathered to vie for the crown.

Also gracing the pageant were 30 of the former title holders who were there to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Former Miss South Africa and Miss World Anneline Kriel, 52, said being at the pageant brought back memories of when she competed in Miss World in 1974.

Kriel was only 19 then, but she won, making her the second South African to hold the title.

Durban-born Penny Coelen was the first, in 1958.

"Sitting in this make-up room takes me back to my pageant days. It's a wonderful feeling, being part of the action after all these years.

"I am so happy to see my old friends again. Everybody is excited and looking forward to welcoming the new Miss SA," Kriel said.

Professional

Speaking about how the pageant changed her life, she said, "The pageant has changed so much over the years. It is so professional nowadays, and when I entered I was but a child. But the pageant opened many doors of opportunity for me.

"Now that I am much older, I appreciate the opportunity and honour of being Miss South Africa.

"From there I went on to win the Miss World pageant the same year (1974). I also did a bit of modelling and pursued my dream of becoming an actress after studying drama at Pretoria University.

"If I had not entered the pageant I would not have had the confidence to work overseas," she said.

Kriel is now married to Peter Bacon, and they have two daughters, Tayla, 18, and Witney, 16.

Kriel's successor, Vera Johns (1975), who now lives with her husband, Alan Sutherland, in Mooi River, said she was having a "blast" at the Superbowl.

"My husband, who is a former All Blacks player, has been enjoying himself more than me, surrounded by this bevy of beautiful women," she said.

"It is just so wonderful to meet my old friends again."

Johns, then 24, was disqualified from the Miss World pageant because she was born in Rhodesia, not in South Africa.

"I am impressed with the contestants, they are so poised and intelligent. The judges are definitely going to have a difficult time choosing a winner," Johns said.

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