Revive Madiba magic

2014-08-31 15:00

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During Nelson Mandela’s term of office, not only did South Africa become known as the Rainbow Nation, but the national sports teams rode the crest of a sporting wave.

Who can forget the dramatic Joel Stransky drop goal that took the sails out of the Springboks’ nemesis, the All Blacks, to win South Africa the Webb Ellis trophy at Ellis Park in 1995?

Or Mark Williams’ brace at an FNB Stadium packed with a crowd that represented all the colours of the rainbow, the following year for Bafana Bafana to claim the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon)?

The Proteas did not win any major international tournaments during Madiba’s tenure as South Africa’s first democratically elected president between 1994-1999, but they did win some tests.

There were also some noticeable changes in the sport.

A year before Mandela left office, The Mdingi Express?–?fast bowler Makhaya Ntini, who went on to become only the third South African to take 300 test wickets after Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald, and reach second place in the ICC test match bowling ratings?–?made his test debut on March 19 1998 against Sri Lanka.

The MadibaMagic?–?thanks mostly to those famous phone calls Mandela made to South African sports participants in the middle of the night wishing them well and reminding them they were not only representing themselves, but millions of fellow citizens, rubbed off on most athletes.

Is there anyone among President Jacob Zuma, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, coaches Shakes Mashaba, Heyneke Meyer and Russell Domingo, captains Itumeleng Khune, Jean de Villiers and Hashim Amla, who can inspire the national teams to great heights once more by rekindling that winning spirit?

Bafana Bafana

Mashaba’s appointment has brought a new sense of hope for Bafana to rise from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix.

Their quest to qualify for next year’s 30th Africa Cup of Nations, to be held in Morocco from January 17 to February 8, starts in Sudan on Friday night. They will have a mere four days’ rest before facing defending champions Nigeria in Cape Town on September 10.

The nation will know on November 19 when they play away against Nigeria whether Bafana will be one of the 16 teams that will contest the Afcon next year.

This is a chance for the team to redeem themselves as Mashaba has selected a young squad full of promise.

The third team in their group is ­Congo-Brazzaville.

Springboks:

Since 1995, when they beat the All Blacks to lift the IRB World Cup trophy, the Boks have always gone into the tournament as favourites.

It should be no different when they play in next year’s rugby World Cup in England from September 18 to October 31.

Even after the MadibaMagic years, they hoisted President Thabo Mbeki shoulder-high at the Stade de France, Saint-Denis in Paris after claiming victory over England in the 2007 edition, on foreign soil nogal.

The Boks have a hectic programme leading up to the World Cup.

They lead the rugby championship after home and away victories over Argentina.

It gets tougher as they face Australia in Perth on Saturday before tackling New Zealand in Wellington on September 13.

It will then be home games against the Wallabies at Newlands on September 27 before the New Zealanders visit Ellis Park on October 4.

Fresh from the championship, it will be off to play on the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour that starts at the Aviva Stadium in Ireland on November 8.

That match will be followed by a contest against England at Twickenham on November 15.

Seven days later, the Boks will tackle Italy before trekking to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on November 29 to face Wales.

Not much will happen next year as there will only be three matches of a reduced rugby championship that will be a single match each against New Zealand, Australia and Argentina.

The Boks will also play a single test against the Pumas before heading off to the World Cup.

The Proteas:

South Africans will wait with bated breath to see if the Proteas can eventually shed the “chokers” tag when the 2015 cricket World Cup comes around from February 14 to March 29 in Australia and New Zealand.

The national cricket team have not disappointed under Hashim Amla. They made history in their first outing under his leadership by breaking the Sri Lanka hoodoo that had lasted for years before registering a whitewash over Zimbabwe.

The Proteas are playing in a Triangular Series with Zimbabwe and Australia at present.

Their next assignment is the New Zealand tour which kicks off at the Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui, on October 21 and ends on October 27. They are in Australia from November ­2-23.

From down under, the Proteas head home to host the West Indies from December 17 to January 28. Then it’s off to the World Cup.

Such are the challenges awaiting our three national teams. Will they bring back the country’s pride?

That question will be answered through their tournaments and their performances at the different international events.

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