On track, field and water, SA stars shone ...

Sports fraternity can look back at 2017 and pat itself on the back

30 December 2017 - 00:00 By Khanyiso Tshwaku

• Wayde van Niekerk: The Olympic champion picked up from where he left off in 2016, dominating the 400m while putting in world-class performances over other distances. He beat the 300m world best, lowered the South African 200m mark to 19.84sec and clocked a 9.94sec 100m personal best that ranked him eighth for the year. At the world championships he retained his 400m crown and took silver in the 200m.
• Caster Semenya: Added the 1500m to her programme at the world championships and confounded her critics with a storming finish to steal bronze from British home girl Laura Muir. The Olympic 800m champion won her first 800m world title since Berlin 2009, and then wrapped up the Diamond League race too.
• Luvo Manyonga: Went unbeaten throughout the season in the long jump.. He broke Khotso Mokoena's 8.50m South African record when he went 8.62 in March, and improved that to 8.65 the following month.• Kirsten McCann: At the forefront of South African rowing this year, she was the only member of the team to win a medal at their world championships, taking gold in the lightweight single sculls. McCann competed in just one of the World Cup regattas this year and took gold there too.
• Chad le Clos: Remember the heartbreak after he ended fourth in the 200m butterfly at the 2016 Olympics? He bounced back to regain the 200m fly world title he had last won in 2013. Unfortunately he faded in the 100m butterfly at the world championships in Budapest, but he finished the year by winning his fourth World Cup series.
• Rosko Specman: The Blitzbok flyer has dazzling speed and the ability to change direction at right angles while still going forward. He defies the laws of physics with his mobility. Was rightly nominated for World Sevens player of the year and was wrongly overlooked for the gong.
• Ruswahl Samaai: He added a special gloss to Manyonga's world championship gold by taking the bronze in the long jump. Some may consider him unlucky to be competing at the same time as Manyonga, but Samaai, the 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, proved his mettle by clinching his medal only on his last two jumps.
• Malcolm Marx: The Springbok hooker steals more ball than a corrupt government minister loots money from public funds. Throw in intense physicality, massive work rate on defence, powerful scrumming and a brilliant attitude and he's the complete package. Lineout work could do with some practice.
• Cameron van der Burgh: This was the first time since 2008 that the veteran had not won 100m breaststroke silverware at a major long-course gala. But he still picked up world championship bronze in the 50m breaststroke, a non-Olympic event. Not bad at all.
• Dane van Niekerk: The pickings in the English summer may have been slim for the men's cricket team but the women, led by Van Niekerk, turned in the most professional of performances to reach the Women's World Cup semis. Not only did they compete, they pushed eventual champs England hard in their play-off when they lost by two wickets in the last over.● Percy Tau: The Mamelodi Sundowns star was finalist for the 2017 South African sports star of the year. Was a shining light in Bafana Bafana's disastrous attempt to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. He also helped Sundowns finish second behind Bidvest Wits in the Absa Premiership. Tau was also vital in Sundowns' attempt to defend the Caf Champions League where they were knocked out by eventual winners Wydad Casablanca in the quarterfinals.
• Dean Elgar: In what has been a difficult batting year for the Proteas, the left-handed opener crossed 1000 test runs this year, even though he became the 10th batsman to be dismissed for 199 in a test match. South African cricket may not have quite solved its opening partnership conundrum, but will do so once a partner settles with Elgar.
• Aiden Markram: It's one thing to play in a team that scores 400 runs in 50 overs, but doing it three times in a One-Day Cup battle beggars belief. The Titans scored 400/5 (Cobras), 415/3 (Lions) and 425/5 (Warriors) while passing 300 on two other occasions. Markram made the decisive score (161) to crush the Warriors in the final. He also made 183 against the Lions.
...BUT AS FOR BAFANA AND OTHER CHARACTERS, NEED WE SAY MORE?
• Promoter Steve Kalakoda and Boxing SA: Boxer Herbert Nkabiti died on their watch.After collapsing in the ring in April, he was rushed to a nearby private hospital where aneurosurgeon was supposed to be on call — as is legally required for boxing tournaments. The hospital later said no formal arrangement was made for the event, although Kalakoda denied this. Suffering from bleeding on the brain, Nkabiti was transferred to a government hospital where he died less than 24 hours after the fight. —David Isaacson
• Athletics SA: So ASA might have some good accountants, who took it into the blackafter a decade in the red, but it doesn’t seem to know much about athletics. Its s electionfor the world championships in London was a disaster, omitting 14 athletes who had qualified for the event. And when it tried to explain its decision, it revealed gob smacking incompetence. ASA argued that none of them would have advanced beyond the firstround of competition — but the standards used to make this assessment were so highthey actually equated to top-eight finishes and in some cases medals. —David Isaacson• World Rugby Council: OK, not all the 39 members who voted for the host of RugbyWorld Cup 2023 are villains, but at least 24 of them are. The South African bid was considered the best by an independent review panel and its recommendation was for the council to vote for Mzansi. But horse-trading was the order of the day as France won the vote 24-15.—Craig Ray
• Haroon Lorgat: For selling (or is it not selling?) the T20 Global League dummy, andCricket South Africa ’s board for not spotting Lorgat’s folly until it was going to be $25-million too late. Now he’s just someone that we used to know, en kyk hoe lyk hulle ( CSA’sboard) nou . On top of that, the game in this country is the poorer for this sorry mess —instead of a tournament to rival the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash, spectatorshave had to make do with just another domestic competition, albeit one that isn’tshort of top players. —Telford Vice• Safa and Bafana coach Stuart Baxter: They signed a strange five-year deal in Mayin which the Briton was not given a mandate. Baxter then failed to qualify Bafana Bafanafor the 2018 Russia World Cup — for the second time, as in 2005 — and both he and the South African Football Association showed everyone the middle finger when they were asked about his future and Bafana’s disastrous campaign. —Sazi Hadebe
• The Premier Soccer League: The PSL tries to get many things right but one thing remains a sore point: its governance. The PSL has told everyone who cares to listen that it has been looking to hire a CEO — which has taken more than two years. For an organisation that is a law unto itself and has had a club owner as permanent chairman, the CEO saga is not surprising, because it serves the PSL’s own interests well. —Sazi Hadebe
• The City of Cape Town: It ’s treatment of football is embarrassing and we are glad ahigh-profile figure like Benni McCarthy has highlighted this after experiencing it firsthand as coach of Cape Town City. But because the city’s dissing of football has been going on for years, we do not expect anything to change in the years to come. Maybe a change in authority might tilt things more in favour of the sport admired the world over but shunned in Cape Town. —Sazi Hadebe
• Kwagga Smith: Hindsight is always the best view and, yes, Smith should have waitedfor David Havili to land before tackling him. The Lions were already behind the eight-ballin the final against the Crusaders, and being reduced to 14 men was not going to help.Smith had a good season, yes, but in one moment of madness all his hard work evaporated. —Khanyiso Tshwaku• The Springboks: Over the course of an historic night in Albany on September 16, theshell-shocked Boks watched in horror as the rampant All Blacks inflicted their second 57-pointer against them. Only this time the Boks failed to register a single point, and surpassed the 0-49 Brisbane Bashing of 2006. —Khanyiso Tshwaku
• Romain Poite: In the eyes of New Zealand Rugby, the erratic French referee will forever be the man who denied the All Blacks a series win against the British and Irish Lions. It was a bad decision; Ken Owens had played the ball from an offside position and it should have been a penalty. However, the rugby world (South Africa especially) tookthe moment to remind the All Blacks about Poite ’s display against the Boks in 2013 at thevery same Eden Park. —Khanyiso Tshwaku

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