Opinion / 2 January 2020, 12:30pm / Ashfak Mohamed
CAPE TOWN – With a busy year of sport ahead, IOL Sport's Ashfak Mohamed pens his wishes for 2020:
Gold for Semenya, Van Niekerk
Last year was one to forget for Caster Semenya - off the track. On it, she was as dominant as ever, remaining unbeaten in the 800m.
But the battle with the IAAF about her eligibility to run in distances ranging from 400m-1 500m - due to her high testosterone levels - continued in court. She lost the last round at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, but is awaiting the outcome of an appeal at the Swiss Supreme Court.
But wouldn’t it be sweet if Semenya still wins a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? That is a possibility in the 5 000m, even if she loses her final appeal.
The 28-year-old multiple world champion has already hinted at a change, tweeting yesterday: “New Events loading, Qualifications Loading Everything Is New About This So Excited. And New Caster.”
Semenya’s teammate Wayde van Niekerk is also on a mission to claim gold in Tokyo.
Van Niekerk has not been the same ever since that fateful 2017 day at Newlands, where he slipped and injured his knee in a celebrity touch rugby match.
The reigning 400m Olympic champion missed out on last year’s world championships in Doha, but has marked his return to training on social media with #QuietStorm. “Looking forward to be back on track 2020 #WaydeWasHere #QuietStorm,” Van Niekerk tweeted.
The T20 World Cup is not the same thing as the 50-over version, but for the South African cricket team, a World Cup is a World Cup.
It was a nightmare 2019 edition in the United Kingdom, where the Proteas were knocked out of the tournament about halfway through.
But a regime change has taken place with the arrival of Graeme Smith as director of cricket and Mark Boucher as the head coach.
The former national teammates got off to a good start in the Test arena with the 107-run victory over England last week.
And while the One-Day International team will have to be rebuilt, the T20 outfit had solid results in 2019, beating Sri Lanka in South Africa and drawing a series in India.
There have been rumours that AB de Villiers could return to Proteas colours for the T20 World Cup in Australia in October, while Imran Tahir and Dale Steyn are available as well, having retired from Test cricket.
But whatever the make-up of the squad, the Proteas must just put this World Cup bogey to bed, once and for all.
Springbok fans are still celebrating the World Cup triumph, with fans stating on social media that yesterday’s date was actually “32-12” - the final score against England in Yokohama.
But a new year presents an opportunity to set new goals, and one that this group of Boks must achieve is beating the All Blacks at Eden Park on September 5.
The last time the Boks won at the New Zealand rugby fortress was in 1937. South Africa came close in 1994 in Auckland when they drew 18-18 under coach Ian McIntosh and captain Francois Pienaar, having lost the first two Tests of the series in Dunedin and Wellington.
Apart from the historical value of a victory at the venue of the 1987 World Cup final, the Boks lost to the All Blacks in their opening match of the tournament in Japan last October.
And having drawn 16-16 in Wellington during the Rugby Championship last year, it means that South Africa did not beat New Zealand in 2019.
So, Siya Kolisi and his team have a score to settle on several fronts with the All Blacks in 2020 - even if just to underline their Rugby World Cup triumph.
Bafana make strong start
Can Bafana Bafana take some inspiration from the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup triumph? The only way they can do that is by qualifying for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.
South Africa’s coach Molefi Ntseki will be relieved that a proposal to use the qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations tournament for the World Cup as well was rejected.
As one of the top 26 ranked teams on the continent, Bafana moved straight into the second round of qualifying.
They will play two qualifiers in 2020 - between March 23-31 and June 1-9 - with four further matches in 2021.
The third and final round of World Cup qualifiers takes place in November 2021, where the 10 group winners from the second round will fight it out on a home and away basis for one of the five spots in Qatar.
Bafana have already made a shaky start to the Afcon qualifiers, losing 2-0 to Ghana away, and then holding off Sudan 1-0 at home.
The key factor for Ntseki will be selection - will he stick with someone like Lebo Mothiba upfront? Are there more players with South African connections playing overseas who can qualify to play for Bafana?
The draw for the second round of the World Cup qualifiers will take place in Cairo on January 21.
United regain former glory
Okay, okay, send all your Man United jokes my way. I can take it, as I fondly remember the glory years under Sir Alex Ferguson.
It’s “wonderful” to see all the Liverpool fans wearing their jerseys with pride, as they are well on their way to clinching their first English league title in 30 years.
That comes on top of their Uefa Champions League triumph, as well as becoming world champions by winning the Club World Cup.
Jurgen Klopp can do no wrong, and it’s hard not to like the German - he even recognised Springbok captain Kolisi in a Cape Town restaurant recently.
But there is no reason why Manchester United cannot get back to the top. Okay, I lie - there are quite a few, but things can change for the Red Devils.
Big boss Ed Woodward needs to get the chequebook out and spend some serious cash if United are serious about challenging Liverpool and Manchester City for top honours.
First things first, though, for manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - get the team into next season’s Champions League by winning this year’s Europa League.
That is how United will attract top talent and avoid situations like the one where Norwegian hot shot Erling Braut Haaland chose Borussia Dortmund, reportedly because the German club are in the Champions League.