The year's most iconic sporting moments

Rugby Union - First Test International - South Africa v England - Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa - June 9, 2018. South Africa's captain Siya Kolisi in action. Picture taken June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Rugby Union - First Test International - South Africa v England - Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa - June 9, 2018. South Africa's captain Siya Kolisi in action. Picture taken June 9, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Published Dec 23, 2023


There were many ups and downs in 2023, but South Africans have an unwavering passion for sport. As the year draws to a close, the Saturday Star looks back at some of the most iconic and memorable South African sporting moments.

South Africa's captain Siya Kolisi in action during an international against England in 2018 at the Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Springboks make history with fourth Rugby World Cup win:

South Africa made it back-to-back Rugby World Cup wins with victory over New Zealand.

The Springboks retained the Webb Ellis Cup after a thrilling 12-11 win over the All Blacks in the final at the Stade de France in Paris.

It meant back-to-back wins for South Africa, who triumphed over England in the 2019 final in Japan.

And with four tournament wins to their name, the Springboks became the most successful team in Rugby World Cup history – a title they previously shared with New Zealand.

The win meant the Springboks remain unbeaten in Rugby World Cup finals – two of which have been won against their great Southern Hemisphere rivals, New Zealand.

They previously beat the All Blacks in 1995 in a narrow 15-12 extra-time win in Johannesburg – their first Rugby World Cup title.

The Springboks then beat England 15-6 in the 2007 final to win their second trophy.

Their third – and the first of their consecutive Webb Ellis Cup wins – came against England in the last Rugby World Cup, the 2019 tournament in Japan.

South Africa's David Miller plays a shot during a Cricket World Cup semi-final match against New Zealand in Auckland in 2015. REUTERS/Nigel Marple

Proteas come close to making their first cricket World Cup final:

Though they put up a gutsy fight, South Africa were dumped out of the Cricket World Cup in the semi-final round for the fifth time, again failing to reach the final of the 50-over showpiece after stumbling against Australia in Kolkata.

The Proteas were bundled out for a paltry 212, after winning the toss and opting to bat against Australia at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

The Aussies coasted to the target to secure a three-wicket victory with 16 deliveries to spare, booking their place in the final against hosts India.

Australia’s fast bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood simply decimated South Africa’s top order, after they won the toss and chose to bat.

Kgothatso Montjane in action. Picture credit: Reg Caldecott

Tennis star KG Montjane makes history:

KG Montjane claimed two major Grand Slam titles this year, which included the US Open wheelchair women’s doubles title as well as the Roland Garros women’s wheelchair doubles. She claimed both her grand slam doubles titles together with her Japanese tennis partner, Yui Kamiji.

She also capped off her year by winning the Sports Personality of the Year as well as the SportsWoman of the Year with a Disability award at the SA Sports Awards.

South Africa's Sune Luus celebrates taking the wicket of England's Natalie Sciver in Bristol during the Women's Cricket World Cup Semi-Final in 2017. Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

South Africa reach first-ever cricket World Cup final:

South Africa's heroic women fell on the wrong side of history at an electric Newlands, losing a thrilling T20 World Cup final to the powerhouse Australians by 19 runs.

It was always going to be a tough ask against a side that has now competed in seven straight T20 World Cup finals, winning six of them, but the Proteas women fought with all they had from start to finish.

It was not the result they or the 14 000 fans crammed into this iconic cricket venue wanted, but this group had already achieved something that no other South African team – men or women, T20 or 50-overs – had done before.

Lenize Potgieter (GA) of South Africa with Kate Shimmin (GD) of England, during the 2019 Spar Challenge Netball third Test. Photo: Jaco Marais

SA host first-ever Netball World Cup:

South Africa became the first African country to host the Netball World Cup.The Netball World Cup has been hosted in England, Australia, Jamaica, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Scotland and Singapore, but never in an African country. The SPAR Proteas finished in sixth position in this World Cup. The Netball World Cup 2023 was also named “Best Sporting Event of the Year 2023” at the Sports Business Awards 2023 (SBA 2023) in London.

Boxer Kevin Lerena at Smith’s Boxing Gym in 2016, preparing for his final challenge against Micki Nielsen for the Cruiserweight Super 4 title. Picture: Itumeleng English

Kevin Lerena wins WBC interim title

South Africa’s Kevin Lerena won the WBC interim bridgerweight title on a unanimous 12-round points decision against Senad Gashi, who was more intent on pushing and fouling throughout at Emperors Palace near Kempton Park.

In a battle of southpaws there was nothing in it through the first four rounds, with Lerena possibly shading rounds three and four. However, Lerena (100kg) picked up the pace in the fourth round, with Gashi (99.50kg) warned for a low blow by referee Michael Griffiths from Canada.

The 31-year-old Lerena began to dominate through rounds six, seven and eight, scoring with his right hand jab, with Gashi only intent on fouling and pushing. Lerena remained in control in rounds nine ten and eleven, with little coming back from the 33-year-old Gashi.

Round twelve was a big round for the South African in scoring a knockdown as Gashi was only intent on survival, and had a point deducted by the referee just before the bell.

Banyana Banyana’s Chantell Esau is challenged by Swedish captain Caroline Seger during a friendly played at the Cape Town Stadium in 2021. The home team lost the game 0-3. Photograph: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Banyana Banyana make it to the World Cup last 16

The cheers were deafening as Banyana Banyana beat Italy 3-2, giving the whole country something to celebrate.

Banyana were ranked 38 places lower than their opponents, but still managed to secure this incredible victory and move on to the next stage.

They were, however, knocked out of the 2023 Fifa Women's World Cup after a 0-2 defeat to the Netherlands in a Round-of-16 match.

South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker won her first Fina Swimming World Cup gold medal in Tokyo. She won the 200m breaststroke in a new event record of 2:22.35, shedding 0.52 off Viktoria Gunes’ time. AP African News Agency (ANA)

Tatjana Schoenmaker becomes 200m breaststroke World Champion

In July, the 26-year-old swimmer won her first-ever world title at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

She had previously been crowned in the Olympics and Commonwealth games.

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio has spoken about the importance of men supporting the cause of empowering women in sport. Photo: Alejandro Ernesto/EPA

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio finished sixth in the Women’s Tour De France

At the end of July, Moolman-Pasio cycled her way into a top-10 finish, completing the race in 25 hours, 38 minutes and 57 seconds.

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing South Africa’s Special Olympics national team at the Union Buildings, where he was hosting them for their exceptional performance at the Special Olympics World Games in Germany in June this year. The interaction with Team South Africa at the Union Buildings was part of Ramaphosa’s commitment to encourage and celebrate excellence among South Africa’s sports women and men, and his recognition of the role of sport in unifying the nation and forging social cohesion. The team brought home a total of 49 medals – 22 gold, 20 silver and seven bronze. Kopano Tlape / GCIS

President honours SA Special Olympics Team

President Cyril Ramaphosa has commended the outstanding performance of South Africa’s national team, which excelled at this year’s Special Olympics World Games.

Competing against 7 000 athletes from over 180 countries at the Special Olympics World Games in Germany in June 2023, the national team returned with 22 gold, 20 silver and seven bronze medals.

Saturday Star

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