Clinton van der Berg.
The moment of truth is fast approaching.

The state of South African sport generally will be judged on what happens from next week through until November.

If SA sticks to the form book, it will be either a feast or a famine. Half-measures are hardly in keeping with our style.

We win gloriously; or we lose spectacularly.

It all begins on Thursday when the Proteas play England at The Oval. London will provide a throbbing backdrop to what is sure to be a sensational occasion. In so many ways, it will set the mood for the Proteas’ assault on the World Cup.

It’s a marathon rather than a sprint, but a good start is imperative.

Failure needn’t be the death knell, but defeat will hobble ambitions.

The doomsayers are never far away when it comes to the Proteas in major tournaments, but you do wonder how the years of past hurt might possibly afflict youngsters like Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Andile Phehlukwayo.

Perhaps they are typical youngsters - seemingly bullet-proof and impervious to the weight of history. Let us hope so.

Two other major events will collide with the Cricket World Cup, not least the women’s Football World Cup, which begins on June 7.

A fortnight later, Bafana Bafana will limber up for a crack at the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

These are heady days for our national elite and it’s long overdue that SA’s women occupy the spotlight. They will soon travel to France’s Normandy region, equal parts giddy and anxious. The World Cup is the big league and Banyana Banyana will discover quickly that this is no place for the faint of heart; not against the like of group rivals, Germany, China and Spain. It’s a brutal fixture list that will require standards seldom reached.

Recent form is patchy, but as they showed in qualifying, there is a grittiness to their approach. They can hang tough, as they must in coming weeks.

Bafana Bafana sneaked into Afcon and won’t be among the favourites. They’re in a bruising group, but it won’t be impossible escaping the clutches of Ivory Coast, Morocco and less threatening Namibia.

Let’s hope they can travel without shenanigans and sideshows and coach Stuart Baxter can get key men like Percy Tau to fire.

Much like ages spent waiting for a bus, when two follow in quick succession, the netball World Cup takes place in the UK in July, clashing briefly with the women’s football World Cup. South Africa will arrive in optimistic mood.

Ranked fifth, they will back themselves against anyone they play. Given the staggering participation numbers in SA, the importance of the national team cannot be overstated: tens of thousands of girls especially will eagerly follow their progress.

And so to the Rugby World Cup.

The only date that matters for now is September 21 when the Springboks play New Zealand in their opener. It was the late Kitch Christie who spoke of the high road and the low road. A win will see the Boks barrelling their way to at least the semi-finals; a loss would be potentially crippling. Besides, none of the eight previous champions ever lost a pool match in their winning run. Six demanding, fascinating, exciting months await.

A nation expects.

@ClintonV


Sunday Tribune