Wayde van Niekerk shows off his gold from the Rio Olympics. Photo: Sergio Moraes, Reuters

Team South Africa departed on Monday for the biennial IAAF World Championships, which start in London on Friday and will continue until August 13.

The team includes seven national record holders  Akani Simbine (100m), Wayde van Niekerk (200m and 400m), Antonio Alkana (110m hurdles), Luvo Manyonga (long jump), Lebogang Shange (20km walk), Carina Horn (100m) and Caster Semenya (800m).

South African athletes have enjoyed a spectacular 2017 season and with a handful of individuals dominating the rankings in their specialist disciplines, the country's Track and Field stars are expected to continue their upward trajectory as they build on their rapid progress in recent years.

Van Niekerk holds the world lead in the 400m event (43.62) and has clocked two of the three fastest times this year, while Simbine is ranked third in the 100m (9.92) and has run under 10 seconds on eight occasions this season.

Both speedsters are also expected to put up a fight in a wide open 200m battle, with Van Niekerk ranked second (19.84) and Simbine rated fifth (19.95) in the half-lap event.

In the long jump, Manyonga holds the world lead (8.65m) and compatriot Ruswahl Samaai is ranked second (8.49m).

Between them, Manyonga and Samaai currently boast 11 of the top 12 performances in the global rankings and they will both line up among the favourites for podium places.

Semenya, meanwhile, has displayed superb shape in the 800m women’s event, having set the fastest time in the world this year when she clocked a 1:55.27 national record at the recent IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco.

She has clocked four of the 11 quickest times on the circuit this season over two laps and will also hope to spring a surprise over 1 500m after being entered into both events.

Having found some consistency at the highest level and charging to a national record of 13.11 in the 110m hurdles this season, Antonio Alkana is ranked seventh in his favoured discipline. He will aim to stun his more fancied opponents.

Having ended fifth in the athletics competition at last year's Rio Olympics with two golds and two silver medals, South Africa has since established itself as a force at age group level this season.

The SA youth team finished top of the standings to become world champions at the recent IAAF World U-18 Championships in Nairobi, Kenya with 11 medals (five gold, three silver and three bronze), while the national junior team ended second behind Ethiopia with 17 medals (12 gold, four silver and one bronze) at the CAA African U-20 Championships in Tlemcen, Algeria.

Rikenette Steenkamp in the 100m hurdles has been withdrawn from the team due to injury, while ASA will make a statement on Olympic javelin silver medallist Sunette Viljoen at a later stage.

Athletics South Africa