In a year when so much was expected of South African sport, so little has been delivered. Fresh in the memory will shine the Bafana debacle and the Bokke injustice, but there is a lot more that’s gone wrong in South African sport this year. Fikile Mbalula, this article is for you and all other big wigs in sport.
Lets start with the obvious. In the months after the World Cup, Bafana had started to ascend up the world rankings. With a very good win against Ghana at Soccer City, and opening up their qualifiers for the AFCON with a victory against Niger, things looked great for Bafana. The country was firmly behind the boys again as they began their quest to once again become the best team in Africa. This all came to a shuddering halt last weekend. Actually it started the month before when Bafana took to the road to lose to Niger in a match which we can say nothing about as SABC did not televise it (we’ll speak about them later). It still meant we had destiny within our grasps, but the bafoons at SAFA along with the technical team of Bafana forgot one of the most important rules in sport. READ THE RULES! Bafana celebrated their advancement to the expense of their dignity. The fact that SAFA have no appealed the rules is even more appalling and Bafana are now instead of taking on the mantle of Africa’s biggest team are bordering on becoming the joke of Africa again. There is desperate need for change.
Okay in two words why we are out of the World Cup – “Bryce Lawerence”. That being said, “Wayne Barnes” was the reason for New Zealand not making it 4 years ago and it was greeted by the simple explanation that if the All Blacks had been good enough, then Wayne Barnes would not have been a deciding factor. Depressingly we were good enough, we just failed to make our chances count. Notably missing out on penalties, drop goals and two golden try scoring opportunities. We have now lost 4 on the trot to the Aussies which equals our worst ever run against them. We were comfortably beaten in the Tri Nations, but we deserved better in the World Cup. It is unfortunately time for change though. The stalwarts of Smit, Matfield, Russouw, Botha, Du Preesz and maybe even de Villiers and Habana moved on and allowed the outstanding youth to get their chance. It is also time to get rid of Divvy, with Rassie Erasmus or Heyneke Meyer my first choices to take the top spot. There is exciting youth available in Coenie Oosthuizen, the Ebersohn twins, Elton Jantjies, Jaco Taute, Lambie, Aplon, De Jongh and most definately Hougaard.
The Proteas went into the World Cup as slight underdogs, but quickly changed this tag with a series of professional performances including a brilliant Robin Peterson inspired victory against eventual winners India. Topping the group, South Africa got what was seen as the easiest quarter final possible as they took on New Zealand. It was at this customary time that we did the thing we did best, we choked! The proteas continued a remarkable series of never winning a knock out game at a World Cup. Semi Final in 92 against Pakistan, Quarter Final in 96 against West Indies, Semi Final against Australia at 99, failure at 03, Semi final against Australia in 07 and now Quarter Final against New Zealand in 11. There was need for change and I think we have it. Gary Kirsten has been appointed as the coach, Allan Donald as the bowling coach and AB De Villiers as the ODI captain. A fresh start that might just might reap the benefits this country deserves.
For the third year in a row South Africa qualified for the World Group playoff with a sense of optimism surrounding the clash against Croatia. In Kevin Anderson South Africa at last have a truly gifted top 50 player again. You would also think that the fact that we have played this fixture at home for 3 years would give us the advantage of finally competing in the top echelons of world tennis again. Alas, when the pressure was on we wilted, losing terribly by a 4-1 margin. We will once again be pushing next year for a place in the playoff, but something needs to change. More of our second tier players need to be playing in the ATP 250 events and climbing up the ladder. Its time for South Africa to be back where they deserve at the top of World Tennis.
After the World Athletics Championships in 2009, South Africa came home with 2 gold medals, 1 silver medal and a host of controversy, finishing 9th in the table. In 2011 hopes were high, Semenya was fit and fighting, LJ van Zyl was running great times, Oscar Pistorious had qualified and Sunette Viljoen was looking dangerous. We may well have won four medals (2 silver and 2 bronze) through Semenya, Viljoen, van Zyl and our 4×400 metre team, but I cant help but feeling underwhelmed as we crawled home in 17th place. Semenya and van Zyl were front runners for medals and even though Mokoena and Mulaudzi didnt go with, you just feel like we could have done better. More was definately expected of Thumelo Thugane, Luvo Manyonga, Ruben Ramolefi and dare I say Thuso Mpuang. There was one positive though, there is no Leonard Cheune anymore!
Okay for a split second here forget Charl Schwartzel. Over the past decade South Africa have had at almost all times two players in the top 10 and 3 in the top 20 featuring Els, Goosen, Immelman, Sabattini and Clark. We were almost always seen as the best behind the USA. As I write this we have only one player in the top 40 in the world. At a stage we could have 4 or 5 players in the Presidents Cup squad, this year we might have 3. WE have gone from being World Cup Winners and major champions and contenders to having our entire hope relying on Charl. I’m sure we will be back as we have great youth structures, but it is disconcerting watching the Major Sunday’s and not having many South Africans in contention.
We have missed two Bafana Bafana games due to their inadequacies. The free national sport carrier can now no longer be trusted to show you Bafana games and are losing more credibility daily. Their in studio guests are week and lack the character of Robert Marawa. They should be bringing sport to the people, but instead they are separating us from it. It is nothing short of shocking and it is time for Supersport to step in and offer something to the masses. Challenge officially laid down?
South Africa is a proud country. It is because of this belief in ourselves that we are disappointed in underperformance. This by no means separates our love for our country. The next time Bafana play (In November against Ivory coast) I will be singing as loud as anyone else, supporting all the way. The next time the Boks, Proteas, Tennis side or athletics play I will shout with joy at each challenge won and cry with despair with each point lost, I am South African and I’m proud to be!