The Year in Review, 2023: The top five men’s performances in sport

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi lifts the Webb Ellis trophy after the team won the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi lifts the Webb Ellis trophy after the team won the Rugby World Cup 2023 final between New Zealand and South Africa in Saint-Denis, France, 28 October 2023. Picture: Yoan Valat/EPA

Published Dec 30, 2023


It was an incredible sporting year in 2023 with some unbelievable performances across all sports, but here are the five absolute best which stood out according to IOL Sport writer Michael Sherman.

Rassie Erasmus

It’s not often that it isn’t a coach or player that is up for one of the top five performances of the year, but that’s exactly the case with Rassie Erasmus as SA Director of Rugby. From his subtle tricks to displays of raw emotion, he was the soul of the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup-winning team as he himself often shied away from the limelight. With the two William Webb Ellis trophies to his name, he is a certified genius when it comes to the oval ball.

Novak Djokovic

Love or hate him, there’s no denying that Novak Djokovic was far and away the best men’s tennis player on the planet once more in 2023. Despite turning 36 in May, he was ruthlessly dominant throughout the year as he won three of the four grand slam titles. In fact, the only major he didn’t win was at Wimbledon where he lost in the final to up-and-coming superstar Carlos Alcaraz - who is tipped to be the next dominant force in men’s tennis. Djokovic now has 24 singles grand slams, the most in men’s tennis, and tied with the legendary Margaret Court in the women’s singles.

Siya Kolisi

In combination with Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, Siya Kolisi was part of the Springbok triumvirate which conquered the world again. Not only did he inspire his teammates to produce incredible performances when it mattered most, he also overcame a serious knee injury in miraculous time just to be ready for the Rugby World Cup. Once it was clear nothing would stop Kolisi stepping foot on those hallowed French rugby pitches, it was written in the stars that he wouldbring pride and joy to the Rainbow Nation like no one else could.

Glenn Maxwell

He may have scored a total of three runs in the semis and final of the Cricket World Cup (CWC), but there’s little doubt that Glenn Maxwell produced one of the greatest One-Day International innings’ of all time with his 201 not out against Afghanistan. In their final group game of the tournament, Maxwell marched to the wicket in the 15th over with his side staring down defeat at 69/5 in search of 292 to win. What followed was a knock of incredible talent and sheer stubbornness that not even full body cramp could stop Maxwell from delivering a phenomenal display that will be remembered for many lifetimes.

Max Verstappen

After winning the Formula One World Drivers Championship for the first time in 2021 and then again in 2023, there was not much more that Max Verstappen could do to eclipse those performances, but that’s just what he did. Not only did he win a third Championship, but he also set a new record for most wins in a season with 19, and also most consecutive victories in a season with 10 in a row. That meant he also recorded the highest percentage of wins in a season with 86% with 19 wins from 22 races.