South Africa

’Tis the year for new beginnings and settling old scores

2017-01-08 06:03
Wayde van Niekerk. (Patrick Smith, Getty Images)

Can Wayde van Niekerk be better?

World champion, Olympic champion, world 400m record holder and world-class human being.

Is there a way to top that? Van Niekerk goes into 2017, a year in which he defends his world title in London, looking to do what looks impossible.

Bolt’s last hurrah:

Triple Olympic champion Usain Bolt will bid the world goodbye when he runs his final race in London in August.

Bolt has already indicated that the IAAF World Championships would be his final race. Will he bow out with dignity?

We will miss his magic on the track.

Will Murray keep the ­barbarians at the gate?

The recently knighted Brit did the unthinkable last year by displacing Novak Ðokovic as world number one.

In an era dominated by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Ðokovic – legends of the game – Murray’s achievement was no mean feat.

Considered the runt of the so-called Big Four, Murray has literally worked his socks off in chasing his opponents to the ends of the earth for that ranking.

But with Ðokovic reportedly hungry again, Federer and Nadal injury-free again and a host of ­up-and-coming chasers including Kei ­Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic, ­Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyrgios and the precocious Alexander Zverev, can he stay there?

Serena Williams on the brink:

The first tennis major starts down under next week and all eyes will be on Serena Williams to see if she still has what it takes to conquer the world.

The world number one showed signs of rustiness after a four-month layoff when she was knocked out of the Auckland Classic tournament in the second round a few days ago. 

This could be her last year to rewrite the history books and surpass the legendary Steffi Graf, who shares the Open-era record of 22 grand slam titles.

Brad Binder’s steady climb up the motorcycling ladder:

After three seasons and a dominant final year in winning the Moto3 championship, the 21-year-old South African continues on his steady climb up the ladder in the hopes of landing a MotoGP seat one day.

Said ­mission starts with his riding for Ajo ­Motorsport in the Moto2 championship this year.

What chance of a record run by ­England?

South Africans love everything about the All Blacks because they are everything the Boks aren’t.

And the fact that they finally set the record (18 matches) for the most consecutive Test wins will have the so-called Cape Crusaders crowing.

But England have a chance of breaking that record.

March 18, when Eddie Jones’s team take on Ireland in the Six Nations, is suddenly a big-ish date on the international calendar as it would mark England’s 19th consecutive win (18 under the Australian). Of course, the assumption is that England would have negotiated their way past a resurgent France, a competitive Wales, a defiant Italy and a Scottish team playing with rare verve.

Can Allister Coetzee find his mojo:

After surviving the axe following a disastrous start, Springboks coach Allister Coetzee will be out to make amends this year.

Only good results will prolong his stay at the helm. He has until June to get his act together when France visit the country.

Who will join the Lions at the top ­table in Super Rugby?

In a year which will comfortably go down as one of the worst for Springbok rugby, the Lions thankfully showed the rest of the free world that SA players actually can play ­rugby by making the Super Rugby final.

The question is, have they dragged any of their counterparts in continuing to try and drag SA rugby out of the (playing style) dark ages?

The Cheetahs have adopted something ­approaching total rugby in the Currie Cup, but can it work at Super Rugby level?

The Bulls offload better than anyone in SA, but can they offer more? The Sharks have also committed to running the ball, but is this year’s tournament too soon?

And what shape will the Stormers be in after all that (liquidation) drama off the field?

A huge year for the Proteas:

While their new approach seems to be concentrating on the process of being the best they can be, hopefully with the aim of winning the 2019 World Cup as the end product, there are a few markers to be laid down en route to that peak.

This week’s Test ­series win against Sri Lanka will go a long way towards putting the third-placed side on respectable footing on the rankings ­table and the three- and four-Test series against New Zealand (March) and England (July and August) should put them there or thereabouts in terms of ­regaining the world number one spot.

June represents an opportunity to test the ­efficacy of their new approach in tournament cricket with the ICC Champions ­Trophy in England and Wales.

What chance of finally getting that elusive major ICC trophy in 2017?

Life after Nico Rosberg:

Mercedes will restart life after last year’s Drivers Champion Rosberg who quit the sport a day after winning a title in Abu ­Dhabi.

Without any more rivalry in the camp, the spotlight will once again fall on Lewis Hamilton.

Will Bafana make it to Russia?

After missing the last edition of the world football spectacle in Brazil, Bafana will be looking to book their place in ­Russia.

Bafana are on top of their group and standing in their way to glory is Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and Senegal later in the second half of the year.

World Cup curtain-raiser in Russia:

Cristiano Ronaldo will lead his Portugal side to the Fifa Confederation Cup in ­Russia in June where six continental ­champions will converge in the Fifa World Cup precursor.

Will Tiger roar again:

This could be the year that Tiger Woods makes his return to competitive golf. After being sidelined by injury and loss of form, Tiger is on his way back.

Boxing bonanza:

Will Anthony Joshua prove to the world that he is the best heavyweight by ­upstaging Wladimir Klitschko in their much-awaited World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organisation heavyweight title clash at the Wembley Stadium in the UK on April 29?


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