The crew of Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi have been tipped to win this year's Dusi Canoe Marathon starting at Camps Drift on Thursday. Photo: Rogan Ward

Former Dusi champions Martin Dreyer and Ant Stott have both tipped the crew of Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi to win this year's Dusi Canoe marathon starting at Camps Drift on Thursday.

“On paper there is one crew to win it this year Ä Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi,” said Stott.

“But, remember this is the Dusi and anything can happen.”

Stott, who has won the Dusi four times, said a low river might result in a closer margin between Birkett and Zondi and their strongest rivals Lance Kime and Thulani Mbanjwa.

However, the superior paddling power of Birkett and Zondi could have too much power and they could prevail in the end.

Anticipating a close race, Stott said if the two paddlers were side by side at the end of the second stage, the race might come down to which crew got onto the narrow path going up the Burma Road portage first.

Dreyer, a seven-times winner of the Dusi, also shortlisted the 2014 winner to the same two crews, but had Birkett and Zondi.

“Sbonelo 1/8Zondi 3/8 and Andy 1/8Birkett 3/8 are super-focused right now because they have eaten, slept, and drunk the Dusi together all summer,” Dreyer said.

“They have been living in each other's bags, and that counts in the end.”

“As a crew they are paddling really strongly and we all know how well Andy 1/8Birkett 3/8 has been paddling this past year, with his win at the under 23 world marathon championships.”

He said the powerful surfski duo of marathon world champion Hank McGregor and his Cape partner Jasper Mocke would come into the race as it progressed, but felt they would not be within striking distance come the third and final stage into Blue Lagoon.

Stott speculated that a few of the lesser fancied crews could finish in the top five, and would be poised to capitalise on the smallest mistake by anyone of the top three fancied crews.

“Watch out for Ben Biggs and Karl Folscher,” Stott said.

“Jakub Adam and Cam Schoeman are also going to have a good race. Keep an eye on Kwanda Mhlophe and Zonele Nzuza, while Shaun Griffin and Jacques Theron will also be there or thereabouts.”

The Dusi Canoe Marathon starts in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday and ends in Durban on Saturday. – Sapa