Johannesburg - After weeks of hyping the event on social media with the tag #FillUpPotch, the SA Senior Championships are almost upon us.
The “small meeting”, as Athletics SA president Aleck Skhosana called it a few weeks ago, will be held in Potchefstroom on Friday and Saturday.
While there will be interest in how Luvo Manyonga continues to toy with the South Africa and Africa record in the long jump; in how Caster Semenya defends her unique treble (in the 400m, 800m and 1 500m); and in hammer thrower Letitia Janse van Vuuren, the lion’s share of eyes will be on the 100m final.
All things being equal, the race shapes up to be the fastest run at the national champs, with four of the would-be finalists – Akani Simbine (9.89sec), Thando Roto (9.95sec), Henricho Bruintjies (9.97sec) and Wayde van Niekerk (9.98sec) – having run the distance in less than 10 seconds.
Put world 200m bronze medallist Anaso Jobodwana (10.10), and talented youngsters Gift Leotlela (10.12) and Clarence Munyai (10.20) in the remaining lanes and it may be a race in which the finishing times could threaten anything the Jamaican and US trials have delivered in the past.
The sprinters have all claimed to be the fastest man in South Africa on Twitter, so we asked experts who they think will win and why.
Marc Labuschagne (former SA sprints coach)
“I think it is going to be Akani. It is not going to be clear-cut, but his experience of having run at international level and in the [Rio] Olympic final will see him through.
"The challenge won’t come from Bruintjies, but from Roto, who has come through the ranks this season, I think those three will make up the contenders.
"Wayde will be the wild card because he is the type of guy who can upset the others.
“In my opinion, he is South Africa’s most talented sprinter, but I have no idea what he is going to do. Personally, I do not see him going under 10 seconds because I have not seen him run enough this year.”
Mathew Quinn (former SA sprinter)
“My money is on Akani because he has the confidence.
"The big thing at the national champs will be how the guys handle the pressure.
"Akani knows how to – he has been to the Olympic final and you do not get there by not knowing how to handle pressure. Akani is just at a different level from a mental point of view.”
Werner Prinsloo (Simbine and Bruintjies’ coach)
“That is a tough one to answer, but I think AK [Simbine] has got enough in the legs to do it. He has raced these guys enough before and has been in big, big competitions, so he has the temperament.
“Henricho can definitely can pull it off on a good day. He has not had the form this year, but he can do it.
"He looks very good in training, but has not put it together in a race. He also likes going through rounds in a meeting – the heats the semifinals and the final.
"That is why I say he is a contender for the top spot, if not the top two. I am hoping for a one-two from them.
"Obviously, Gift will be there or thereabouts, and there will be a challenge from Wayde.”
Hennie Kriel (Leotlela and Munyai’s coach)
“Akani is definitely the favourite, no doubt about it. He is the South African record holder and he has run some fast times this year.
"But, many times, the favourite has not won at the national champs. We are looking forward to the race...it is going to be very exciting. That’s all you’re going to get out of me.”