20 December 2013
South African sportsmen and women excelled on the world stage in 2013. The country’s national rugby and football teams both boosted their world rankings over the course of the year, while the Proteas remained the undisputed number one team in test cricket.
Perhaps the biggest upset in football in 2014 occurred at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on 19 November when Bafana Bafana, ranked 61st in the world with Libya, defeated world and European champion, Spain, ranked number one in the world since 2008, by a goal to nil. Bernard Parker scored the winner and a few gilt- edged chances were missed as Bafana recorded their first ever victory over a team ranked number one in the world.
It was a welcome boost for a team that had missed out on qualifying for the 2014 Fifa World Cup, although coach Gordon Igesund had started on the back foot when he took over a side that had drawn two qualifying games under former coach Pitso Mosimane.
Orlando Pirates captured the headlines when they made it through to the final of the African Champions League. On the way to the final, they defeated 2009 and 2010 champions TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the second round and 2011 champions Esperance de Tunis in the semi-finals. However, defending champions Al Ahly, whom they had beaten 3-0 in Cairo in group play, stopped the Buccaneers in the final, winning 3-1 on aggregate.
Pirates’ great rivals, Kaizer Chiefs, the most popular team in South Africa, won the Premier Soccer League title for the first time since 2004/05, while Chiefs and Bafana Bafana captain Itumeleng Khune won five awards at the South African Football Awards gala and was also named the South African Sports Star of the Year after a public vote.
Cricket’s number one
There was little hope of upsetting the Proteas, cricket’s number one test team, in 2014. New Zealand found that out in a New Year’s clash at Newlands in January. They went down by an innings and 27 runs after being bowled out for only 45 in their first innings. The margin was even greater in the second test, which the Proteas won by an innings and 193 runs.
Pakistan were brushed aside in a three-test series, which included scoring only 49 in the first innings of the first test in Johannesburg. After a six-month break, the teams met in the UAE and Pakistan surprised South Africa by winning the first test, but with the rust out of their system the Proteas romped to an innings victory in the second test to tie the series. The win was South Africa’s 100th since the country’s readmission to world cricket in 1992.
Three of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year were South Africans, with Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis being recognised by the “Cricketer’s Bible”.
For the Springboks, 2013 was a very positive year, which saw the men in green and gold make strong progress and enjoy an excellent season that included an unbeaten tour of the northern hemisphere, with wins over Six Nations’ champions Wales, Scotland and France, and only one try conceded in those three tests.
The Springboks lost only two matches out of 12, both of them to New Zealand, but highlights included a Castle Rugby Championship record-setting victory of 73-13 over Argentina in Soweto, a first ever win over Australia in Brisbane, and a first clean sheet against Scotland (28-0) since the famous 44-0 win (which would have been 62-0 today) at Murrayfield in 1951.
Bryan Habana became the first Springbok to score 50 test tries in a 56-23 win over Samoa in June. Only five players before him had achieved the milestone, three of them from first tier test rugby nations.
The South African Sevens team finished second in the HSBC Sevens World Series, won titles in in Las Vegas, Tokyo and Edinburgh, defeating New Zealand on all three occasions for the title, and also captured World Games gold in Colombia in August.
Former Springbok coach Ian McIntosh received the International Rugby Board’s Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service at the IRB World Rugby Conference and Exhibition in Dublin, Ireland, in November.
Chad le Clos continued to shine in the swimming pool, winning World Championship gold medals in the 100 and 200 metres butterfly in Barcelona. Cameron van der Burgh also won gold in the 50 metres breaststroke.
In addition, Le Clos claimed the Fina World Cup overall title for a second time, while Roland Schoeman finished fourth and Myles Brown ninth. The evergreen Schoeman, who is aiming to become the first South African to appear in five Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro in 2016, went unbeaten throughout the season in the 50 metres breaststroke and was seldom challenged.
Paralympic legend Natalie du Toit received recognition for her wonderful career, which ended after the 2012 London Paralympics, when she was awarded an honorary MBE.
Triple world champion
Greg Minnaar was crowned UCI MTB downhill world champion for a third time, delighting South African fans by winning the title in his home town of Pietermaritzburg in September. One of the all-time greats of downhill racing, Minnaar has also finished runner-up in the World Championships three times, has won the UCI MTB World Cup overall title three times and finished as runner-up on four occasions. He has more World Cup podium finishes than anyone else in history.
There was also plenty to celebrate on the road. Daryl Impey became the first South African to wear the Tour de France’s famous yellow jersey in the 100th edition of the event, while Chris Froome, schooled in South Africa, where he first competed as a professional, won the race.
Louis Meintjies showed there is more talent waiting in the wings when he won a silver medal in the under-23 category at the UCI Road Race World Championships in Florence, Italy, while his professional team, MTN-Qhubeka, made a significant mark after becoming the country’s first ever Professional Continental cycling team. Their most significant result was achieved in March when Gerald Ciolek claimed victory in the Milan-San Remo Classic and the team went on to record 16 victories during the season, second among Pro Continental teams.
Wheelchair tennis star
Wheelchair tennis player Lucas Sithole shone during 2013. He won the British Open title and then went one better by lifting a major trophy at the US Open. Ranked second in the world, he twice beat world number one David Wagner on his way to the title. Kevin Anderson, meanwhile, became the sixth South African to be ranked in the ATP Tour’s top 20.
On the water, Hank McGregor was crowned canoe marathon world champion for a third time, while Andy Birkett edged out fellow South African Brandon van der Walt to claim the under-23 men’s title.
Sean Rice won the first Ocean Racing World Championships title in Portugal as South African paddle skiers occupied six of the top 10 places. Michele Eray claimed the women’s title, just ahead of Michelle Burn, with Nikki Mocke, in third, making it a South African 1-2-3.
The national men’s and women’s hockey teams were both crowned African champions, which secured them places at the 2014 Hockey World Cup in The Netherlands.
Giniel de Villiers finished second in the Dakar Rally in a South African-built Toyota Hilux 4×4 and was named the South African Motor Sportsman of the Year.
Kelvin van der Linde won the Scirocco R-Cup Championship in Germany and Austria. His talent and rising star was confirmed in October when he won a place at the FIA Institute’s 2013/14 Young Driver Excellence Academy.