Sports thrills and spills of 2016

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane  EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

Let’s hope 2017 is a good year for South Africa and their sports stars.

The year 2016 has not been everyone’s cup of tea. From a crippling drought to soaring food prices, everyone has felt the pinch.

The year has especially been rough on celebrities considering the deaths of musicians Mandoza, Prince, George Michael, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, author Harper Lee, and actors Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder and Carrie Fisher, to mention a few.

Sport legends also left this world, with the likes of superstars Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and Johan Cruyff taking their last breath in 2016.

The year also dished up a mixed bag for South Africa on the sports fields, whether it was in our own back yard or abroad.

Top of the list of South African achievements in 2016 must go to our Olympians. Team South Africa scooped an impressive 10 medals (two gold, six silver and two bronze) from Rio de Janeiro.

Wayde van Niekerk’s record-breaking 400m triumph, running blind in lane eight, probably topped the list of special sporting moments of the year, while Caster Semenya’s golden victory in the 800m was certainly something to savour.

In the swimming pool, Cameron van der Burgh (100m breaststroke) and Chad le Clos (100m butterfly and 200m freestyle) kept the local flag flying high, while javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen, long jumper Luvo Manyonga – who recovered from a drug addiction – and the rowing coxless pair of Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling grabbed silver.
On debut at the Games the Sevens rugby team won bronze, as did Henri Schoeman in the triathlon.

South Africa’s Paralympians also shone, raking in 17 medals (seven gold, six silver and four bronze medals) just a few weeks later, with Charl du Toit’s two golds on the track stealing the show.

Pitso Mosimane’s Mamelodi Sundowns won the Caf Champions League. The Brazilians, originally dumped from the tournament before being reinstated after AS Vita were disqualified for fielding an ineligible player, beat Zamalek in the final to become only the second South African club – after Orlando Pirates in 1995 – to win the continental title.

The Proteas cricket team started off with an England Test series defeat on home soil, and a disappointing first round exit at the World T20 in India, but finished with a bang as they recorded a rare 5-0 whitewash over Australia in a one-day international series and back-to-back Test series triumphs over New Zealand at home and Australia Down Under.

Yesterday, they took a 1-0 lead in the three-match Test series against Sri Lanka after winning by 206 runs in Port Elizabeth.

Much is expected of Faf du Plessis’s men next year.

For the petrol heads, Brad Binder won the Moto3 championship title to become the first South African since Jon Ekerold in 1980 to win a motorcycle Grand Prix championship.

On a sour note, the Springboks had a disastrous year, winning only four Tests out of 12 under Allister Coetzee.

First losses away to Argentina and Italy marked the country’s worst year on the rugby field. Next year will be a make-or-break year for Coetzee.

Bafana Bafana also face a testing year. The side is without a coach, and won’t compete in the Africa Cup of Nations next month after failing to qualify for Gabon. It lay 60th in world rankings and 12th on the continent. This is not good enough. Whoever will head Bafana needs to instil consistency in the setup.

There are tough 2018 World Cup qualifiers lying ahead, but South Africa have got off to a good start, and need to build on their positive results against Senegal in Polokwane and Burkina Faso away from home.

Let’s hope 2017 is a good year for South Africa and their sports stars.


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