The calendar year is almost over and it’s been a year of some incredible highs for the Rainbow nation and some incredible lows. As has become a little tradition for me here at Sports 24 Seven – All Things Jabu, a recap is in order for the year that was. And while I never intentionally leave anything off, there may well be the possibility that I do, please add it to the comments below.
The Olympic Games
In an Olympic year there is surely no other place to start than with the South African Olympic team that, despite the many negative factors that surround them and the ridiculous kit they had to wear, performed exceptionally well in winning 10 medals, the country’s best ever haul. There was the obvious feel good factors surrounding Lawrence Brittain who had returned from suffering cancer, the story of Luvo Manyoga, who battled his demons to win silver, and Caster Semenya who after all the detractors produced the goods when it mattered in winning gold. Of course though the moment of the Olympics for South Africa came when Wayde van Niekerk, starting in the unfavourable outside lane, broke the World Record in the 400m to win gold. It was a run that you will tell your kids about one day.
The Paralympic Games
Not far behind the Olympics is the Paralympic Games and once again South Africa have produced new heroes and stars in the games for those with a disability. The team collected 17 medals including 7 gold’s, with smiley Charl du Toit leading the charge. The undoubted story of the Paralympic Games for SA belonged to Ntando Mahlangu, who at 14 won a silver medal in the 200m, having only learnt to walk only 4 years ago. For more about Ntando check out this powerful article on the Daily Maverick by Antoinette Muller
The Hockey Revolution
Hockey will always look back at 2016 with thoughts of despair as the Men and Women did not compete in the Olympic Games, however something started bubbling for the future of the SA Game with the launch of the Premier Hockey League. And while there may have been areas for improvement, the regularity of hockey on TV was a joy to behold. The Maropeng Cavemen and the Blyde River Bunters emerged victorious in the initial campaign. Further steps in the right direction for hockey in South Africa included confirming the hosting of the FIH World League Rd 2, with some of the best teams in the world coming to Randburg, and of course the U21 Men who will secure the highest ever finish by a South African men’s side at a major tournament!
Brandon Stone breaks the record
Going into the SA Open Championship many were disappointed that favourite Charl Schwartzel was unable to participate. Brandon Stone, however, took full advantage and romped to his first European Tour title winning the 2016 BMW SA Open. The win also made Brandon the youngest winner of the SA Open and incredibly was the 35th different South African to get a European Tour title. That 8 South Africans made the top 10 capped a fantastic week for South African golf. Brandon may have won the first tournament of the year, but he closed the brackets extremely well by winning the last as well as he romped home in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Brad the Brilliant
The Moto 3 riders’ championship title was won by our South African, Brad Binder, after a second-place finish at the Aragon Grand Prix gave him an unassailable lead over his title rivals with four races remaining. Binder, who finished each of the first seven races on the podium, took the championship lead after the second race in Argentina, and took his first Grand Prix victory at the Spanish Grand Prix – starting from 35th on the grid. With four additional wins prior to Aragon, Binder was never headed in the championship thereafter to become South Africa’s third world motorcycle racing champion, after Kork Ballington and Jon Ekerold, and first Moto 3 Champion. Binder took two further victories before the end of the season, in Australia and Valencia, en route to an eventual championship winning margin of 142 points over his next closest competitor. Compared to Binder’s seven wins, no other rider was able to take more than two, with eight fellow riders taking at least one win during the 2016 season. For 2017 he will be taking on Moto 2!
Henri Schoeman upsets the Brits
Already a medallist at the Commonwealth Games in the team relay and fresh from his revolutionary run to get a bronze medal at the Olympic Games, Henri Schoeman finally took the top step of the podium and did it on the biggest stage at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Series Final in Mexico. The Brownlee brothers who have dominated the sport hit the wall badly and our young South African marched to a brilliant victory. The fact that it irritated the Poms just made it better!
The Proteas whitewash the Aussies
Australia came to South Africa, missing a couple of frontline bowlers, but as the world’s top ranked ODI side. Our most recent limited overs series was the disappointment in the West Indies and of course the poor World T20. There were only a few who were truly optimistic. But instead what we saw was incredible. It started with QDK’s incredible 178 in Pretoria, Faf’s 111 in Johannesburg, Millers 118* blitz in record breaking Durban, reserve Abbott’s 4/40 in PE and of course consistent Rilee’s 122 in Cape Town. It was the series where fans started to support again. It was the emergence of the new Zulu Andile Phehlukwayo, the underlining of Tahir’s youthful exuberance at 37 and Faf’s emergence as a great captain. It was a series that reminded us of the quality of JP Duminy, the keeping ability of Quinton de Kock and introduced us to a very promising Dwayne Pretorius. But you know what stood out the most. It was a team that took different turns to stand up. It was a team. And that team smashed the Aussies! It’s bloody brilliant! That may very well have been what #ProteaFire is supposed to be about!
Comrades – Caroline loses the race but wins the hearts of SA
There is no doubt that Caroline Wostmann is the it girl of South African running and the 2016 Comrades Marathon was supposed to be the day she showed the world how fast she could run. After leading from the start, Caroline looked to be struggling immensely. Her record attempt was off and the question was could she hold off a reinvigorated Charne Bosman. As cramp caused Caroline to bump into a motor bike and to later fall over, many in the stadium thought that was the last we would see of Caroline in the race. With more than 20km to go Caroline was in more pain than she had experienced in a race. The lure of the support vehicles could almost be imagined akin to the lure of water in a dessert. Caroline refused to give up. Through gritted teeth she kept moving forward almost being willed on by the entire nation. The tension in the stadium was almost unbearable and the cheers for Caroline every time she tried to run again were louder and louder.
Ultimately Charne managed to pass Caroline with just under two kilometres left and nothing must be taken away from the opportunistic victory of Charne, who has regularly played the bridesmaid to her opponent. The cheer when Charne came into the stadium was beautiful and South Africa were proud of their local winner. But the cheer from the stadium when a battered Caroline entered the stadium was something that ranks up there with being at Soccer City for the Shabba goal in 2010. As Caroline fought to find reserves the crowd willed her over the line. With dry eyes in short supply Caroline crossed the finish line, not winning the race, but winning the hearts of the country. It was another display of extraordinary from a truly exceptional person.
Sundowns conquer Africa
It was a rather bizarre series of events for Sundowns in their quest for African glory. They were first knocked out by AS Vita in the CAF Champions League and then by Medeama in the CAF Confederations Cup. But then Vita were disqualified and Sundowns were re-instated to the Champions League and Mosimane’s men never looked back. In the group stage they topped their group with three wins from four games. In the Semi-finals Sundowns lost to ZESCO United from Zambia 2-1 in the away game before winning at home 2-0 thanks to Laffor and Tau. In the final it was a thrilling 3-0 home win that sealed the deal and would be completed with a narrow defeat in Egypt. Sundowns became the second South African to lift the African crown after Orlando Pirates in 1995.
The Cheetahs win the Currie Cup
As a Cheetahs fan it has been nearly ten years since my team won the Currie Cup and 7 since we took part in a final. This season however was something special as Franco Smith’s men lifted the Currie Cup for the fifth time and went through the season with a 100% record. In fact, since the birth of my son, the Cheetahs record is played 10 won 10. The final against the Bulls was a war of attrition that eventually was sealed when first Clayton Blommetjies and later Sergeal Petersen went over for tries in front of a packed Toyota Park. That was the only rugby played all year right?
Greg Minnaar makes it 19
Three-time Downhill World Champion, Greg Minnaar, completed a flawless run to post the fastest time with a winning margin of more than three seconds to claim his historic 19th World Cup victory at Fort William, Scotland. Minnaar’s qualifying run on a dry and blown-out course was a nightmare, as he broke his wheel resulting in a loss of air pressure and ultimately a flat tyre after halfway. This meant that he didn’t have a good judge of speed in the bottom section of the track ahead of race day. He started the final on Sunday with 17 riders still to go. And after setting his time had to watch from the hot seat as each of his competitors attempted to better him and failed. The South African’s win means he is the most decorated rider in the history of the World Cup.
Team DiData rocks the Tour de France
In 2015 Africa was first represented at the Tour de France, but in 2016 they truly took it by storm. Of the 21 stages to take place, Team DiData incredibly picked up five wins with Mark Cavendish getting 4 and Steve Cummings picking up stage 7. Team DiData also managed to have Serge Pauwels finish 6th in the Mountains classifications. On a side note South African Louis Meintjies finished in 8th place in the Tour de France racing for team Lampre-Merida. Africa has arrived in cycling and it’s bloody brilliant.
Hank McGregor makes it 7 and 8
Hank McGregor bagged a seventh world title when he mastered a powerful field and tough weather conditions to win the men’s K1 crown at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships, with compatriot Andy Birkett grabbing his first senior medal to complete a historic South African 1-2. It was the sixth title for McGregor in the K1 equalling Spanish marathon ace Manuel Busto’s record for most individual World titles. He and Jasper Mocké then claimed the hard-fought gold medal in the K2 clash just a day later to takes his World Champioship titles to 8.
Our overall best moment for SA Sport in 2016?
Well it can only be Wayde van Niekerk. The World superstar is South African and proud to be so. He can also count Usain Bolt on his list of admirers. That’s impressive enough in itself.