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Idols SA judges Gareth Cliff, Unathi Msengana, Somizi Mhlongo and Randall Abrahams.

Randall Abrahams, Unathi Msengana, Gareth Cliff and Somizi Mhlongo travelled to Durban this week.

Idols SA’s esteemed judging team of Randall Abrahams, Unathi Msengana, Gareth Cliff and new addition Somizi Mhlongo travelled to the beautifully restored Durban Playhouse this week to see if the Zulu Kingdom could once again produce a singing sensation.

To date, three previous winners made their Idols SA debut at the KZN auditions, but the region has also become renowned for its countless off-key, tone deaf, not-so-much-sticking-to-the lyrics, and very funny wannabe stars.

KZN once again lived up to all expectations, but if the judges' reactions to the Golden Ticket winners is anything to go by, we might just see some of these faces in this year's Top 10. Even though the judges handed out only 16 Golden Tickets at the Durban Playhouse, 10 of these singers received an unequivocal "yes" from the judging panel – a rarity in the world of Idols, as Randall only gives his approval to the best of the best, those he believes would be able to pursue a successful recording career. 

One of the performers who wowed the judges was 18-year-old Bridgitt Leahy from Creighton in the Southern Drakensberg. She also enjoyed an extremely unthinkable Idols SA moment when Randall, who normally despises original compositions, specifically requested that she perform one of her own songs as well. “You’re just so special!” Unathi sighed.

But Unathi's "perfect audition" was yet to come. She used these words to describe Siswe Mthalane, 20, from Cato Ridge's rendition of See Beneath Your Beautiful. Winning would mean the world to this talented young man who grew up in the children's home God's Golden Acre and then travelled Europe as part of a youth choir.

The same goes for 26-year-old Mlondi Mkhize from Amanzimtoti, who is supporting his extended family and saving to become a paramedic by working at a carwash. With four yeses from the Idols SA judges, their dreams might just come true! 

Among the others who received unilateral approval from the judges were songbird Nonhle Mhlongo, 29, from Chesterville, Durban, who got Randall to sing along; Leah Peters, 16, a matriculant at Northlands Girls; and two qualified medical doctors: Mandla Bacela, 29, from Butterworth and Lihle Buthlezi, 27, from Ladysmith. 

Just missing the Top 16, Lihle returned home after the final judgment at Sun City last year to an outcry from Idols SA fans on social media. “Sun City was so stressful,” she admitted to the judges in this year’s audition. But she’s been performing consistently since leaving the competition last year, even recorded two songs that are doing well on YouTube, and made sure that her experience paid off in her audition. “Goosies for me!” Unathi exclaimed. Randall faulted her for singing a song that the judges had heard a hundred times before, but he still gave her the nod. 

Unfortunately, Randall wasn't that excited about returnee Amanda Antony, 21, who in 2013 entered Idols SA via AlgoaFM's auditions in Port Elizabeth and then received a Golden Ticket from Unathi without having to see the other judges. Lukily, the others disagreed with Randall and Somizi exclaimed: "I luuuh you!" 

Randall also flatly refused to give Idols SA regular Winston Moonsamy, 28, a Golden Ticket. When returning for his sixth audition, and his fourth time facing the judges, Gareth made him apologise for the way he badmouthed the production during his previous stint in 2012. “I was upset, I was bitter,” he admitted humbly on his knees, and then got the other judges on his side with his great performance. 

Apart from all the Golden Tickets, this week's Idols saw another celebration – the upcoming birthday of financial consultant Charl Rink. After trying his luck in Pretoria and in Cape Town, Durban was literally Charl’s last shot ever at Idols SA glory, since he turned 31, and thus ineligible, the day after this audition. “I’m actually quite sad,” he told the judges. Needless to say Charl once again didn’t get a Golden Ticket, but he did go home with a unique Idols honour: the distinction of winning the most yeses ever from the Idols SA judges – five – in one audition season.

With the Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban auditions all done, it's now all up to Johannesburg at the final audition round at Carnival City on the East Rand. Thereafter all the Golden Ticket winners will face the music again at Sun City where the group will be whittled down to those who will sing for the voting public. 

Idols SA Season 11 is screened on M-Net, channel 101, and Mzansi Magic, channel 161, on DStv on Sundays at 17:00.  All the auditions can also be watched on the Idols SA Extra channel, channel 199 on DStv.

You can follow all the Idols SA conversations on the official Idols SA Facebook page: ‘Idols South Africa’, on Twitter by following @IdolsSA, or on Instagram by following @IdolsSA. You can also find us on WeChat on the ID “idolssa”, where you can test your knowledge by using the keyword “Quiz”. 

For the latest information on Idols SA visit the official website at www.idolssa.tv.

The full list of Golden Ticket winners who auditioned in Durban:

Amanda Antony (21) from East London 
Arliya Peters (17) from Durban
Bridgitt Leahy (18) from Creighton
Emma Louise Rowlands (19) from Durban
Hayden Olivier (20) Pinetown
Lihle Buthelezi (27) from Ladysmith
Mandla Bacela (29) from Butterworth
Mbali Buthelezi (22) from Stanger
Mlondi Mkhize (25) from Illovo
Msawenkosi Mahlangu (27) from Matatiele
Nonhle Mhlongo (29) from Chesterville, Durban
Pearl Khwezi (21) from Margate
Siphelele Ngcobo (24) from Illanda
Sizwe Mthalane (20) from Cato Ridge
Taryll Ogle (21) from Port Shepstone
Winston Moonsamy (28) from Durban