Clinton van der Berg.
Clinton van der Berg.

Hoping for a 2020 SA sport 'green light'

By Clinton van der berg Time of article published Dec 29, 2019

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At the risk of veering into corporate guff, one of the tools of workflow planning is known as RAG, which denotes red, amber and green.

Tasks highlighted in red indicate problems, amber reflects being reasonably on track and green allows you to relax.

Parlay this little trick into our major sport and cricket would be in red, soccer in amber and rugby in green. We know this because of what the past year brought us, just like the Chinese spot down the road: some sweet, some sour.

Inevitably, this is the case most years. Our talent pool tends to be ridiculously vibrant, but the changing moods and performances of our administrators is what muddies the waters. The disasters that visit South Africa’s various codes from time to time are seldom birthed in the changeroom. The boardroom is where the mess takes hold.

And so, to 2020 and what the year ahead might offer. All will pale into significance when ranged against the Tokyo Olympic Games. If the temperature of SA sport in 2019 was gauged primarily by the cricket and rugby World Cups, this year’s reading will be supplied by the Olympics.

Early signs are not encouraging. For all the green shoots of athletic promise being shown at national level, none of this paid off at the recent World Championship: not a single SA athlete got near the podium. Olympic champion Wayde van Niekerk’s injury is taking an unnaturally long time to heal and Caster Semenya is having to divide her time between attorneys and coaches.

Akani Simbine, the formidable sprinter, is a good shout, but even as he flies the flag, a swathe of sensational new sprinters like Noah Lyles, Ronnie Baker and Christian Coleman are laying down emphatic markers. Simbine’s trajectory must climb if he is to medal.

Lottery funding has all but dried up for the SA Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, adding to a sense of dread.

Other problems abound. International qualification standards have been met by some sports, but local Olympic officials aren’t satisfied. Hard-luck stories are already being told.

However, SA’s under-23 soccer team will be in Tokyo and it is perhaps they who will imbue us with the pride that Bafana Bafana seem incapable of. The national team’s ambitions will be on African Cup of Nations qualification that resumes against Sao Tome in August. The October home tie against Ghana will be massive.

Cricket remains in a state of flux, but there is hope with Graeme Smith given the job of repairer in chief. If England’s tour will tell us plenty about the players’ state of mind, the looming under-19 World Cup, taking place in SA in three weeks’ time, will provide strong pointers for the future.

In 2014, Aiden Markram was named player of the tournament, while 19 years ago we got a hint of what was to come with a young Smith the leading run scorer.

With three new coaches in harness and an army of players having moved offshore, Super Rugby will present its usual struggles for SA teams. But the world champion Boks will enjoy the unusual status of being early favourites for the Rugby Championship. Poor Scotland and Georgia will head here in July. Neither will have a hope.

Given the generally gloomy forecast, we’ll hang on to every morsel of joy we get. As South Africans, it’s what we do.


Sunday Tribune

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