Within the space of 24 hours this weekend, all three of South Africa’s main national sporting teams would have played crucial matches.
And after 24 hours, all three teams will be able to gauge how far they have come or need to go as two of the sides face world No 1 teams and the third start a testing 2018 Fifa World Cup campaign away from home against a team ranked five places below them.
The Springboks kick things off when they host the dominant All Blacks in Durban at 5.05pm this afternoon. Bafana Bafana are up next when they meet Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou as they open their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign this evening and the Proteas will look to make it a rare four wins in a row against Australia in Port Elizabeth in tomorrow’s fourth one-day international.
The South African rugby team face a massive task when they run out at Kings Park this afternoon, as they attempt to halt the All Blacks, who have won 16 Tests – including last year’s Webb Ellis Cup – in succession and have already wrapped up this year’s Rugby Championship title.
New Zealand are just one Test victory away from equalling the most successful winning streak of 17 Tests. It’s a record winning run they have established twice – from 1965 to 1969 and in 2013-2014 – while Nick Mallett’s 1997-1998 Springboks also won 17 matches in a row.
The All Blacks have powered to five out of five wins in this season’s Rugby Championship, including a 41-13 hammering of the Springboks in Christchurch last month.
The Springboks, on the other hand, have struggled under new coach Allister Coetzee, winning just four of their eight Tests in 2016. Those four wins have been far from convincing, and the Springboks have battled to find winning combinations and restore confidence against the likes of Ireland, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
Their victory over the Wallabies last weekend was anything but convincing and the All Blacks are in a league of their own. In west Africa, Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba enters the weekend under the most pressure of all the national coaches.
Having failed to qualify them for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, the vultures are circling. A poor result today or against African powerhouses Senegal in their first two World Cup qualifiers could spell the end for the national soccer coach.
History and current form is not on Mashaba’s side. South Africa last qualified for a World Cup in 2002, while their results over the past year have not been flattering. The Proteas have the least pressure on them, having wrapped up their five-match ODI series against Australia with a spectacular run-chase in Durban on Wednesday.
Their four-wicket victory ensured they took an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series with tomorrow’s match in Port Elizabeth and Wednesday’s final match in Cape Town to come.
The limited-overs series victory – their first against Australia since 2008-2009 – will come as welcome relief for coach Russell Domingo, who has been vocal in venting his frustrations with his side’s inconsistency over the past 18 months.
That their victories, which saw them chase down 295 with more than 13 overs to spare in the Centurion opener, win by 142 runs after making 361 at the Wanderers and then chasing down a staggering 372 to win at Kingsmead in midweek, will give them added confidence as they were without the services of injured talisman AB de Villiers for the series.
Golfer Jbe Kruger is flying the flag for South Africa at the Alfred Dunhill Championships at St Andrews and the women’s cricket team are in action against New Zealand in Kimberley today.
If Bafana Bafana and the Springboks can take a leaf out of the Proteas’ book this weekend, and Domingo’s charges maintain their stranglehold over Australia, South Africans will be forgiven for partying the weekend away.