CRICKETAUSTRALIA took a commanding 243-run lead over plucky New Zealand in the third Test in Sydney this week, looking set for a clean sweep of the series. The Australians dismissed the Black Caps for 251 to lead by 203 runs on the first innings before batting a second time in a bid to build an overwhelming total with two days remaining.At stumps on day three, the hosts were 40 without loss with David Warner on 23 and Joe Burns not out 16. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon captured five for 68 to lead the Australian bowling attack, with Kiwi Test debutant Glenn Phillips top-scoring with a charmed knock of 52. The Sydney Test is being played against the backdrop of one of Australia’s most devastating bushfire seasons, with at least 24 people losing their lives in blazes raging across the country, including on the outskirts of Sydney.AUSTRALIAN all-rounder Marcus Stoinis (pictured) was yesterday slapped with a hefty fine after directing a homophobic slur at Kane Richardson during a domestic Twenty20 Big Bash League game.The Melbourne Stars player apologised after being found guilty of breaching Cricket Australia’s code of conduct and penalised A$7 500 (R75 200). “I got caught in the moment and took it too far,” Stoinis said of the incident during the clash with cross-town rivals Melbourne Renegades on Saturday. The incident comes six weeks after fast bowler James Pattinson, currently playing for Australia in the third Test against New Zealand in Sydney, was banned for player abuse, also reportedly a homophobic slur. His penalty — a one-match suspension which ruled him out of the first Test against Pakistan — was harsher as it was his third code of conduct breach in the past 18 months.RUGBYBOTH South African PRO14 sides stumbled badly as they returned to New Year’s action, as the Cheetahs came unstuck in Parma against Italian side Zebre and the Southern Kings were on the receiving end of a nine-try loss to Scottish side Edinburgh.The Kings game will be remembered though for the fact they were reduced to 12 men at a stage for the contest, and after receiving a red card in the first half played well under the circumstances. However, the numerical disadvantage eventually caught up to them as they lost 61-13 in the Scottish capital. In Parma, Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie was a frustrated man as his side looked rusty and out-of-sorts as they slipped to a bonus-point 41-13 defeat at the hands of Zebre. While it was Zebre’s second win of the competition, Fourie felt his side were way below par and warned they needed to find their form again if they were to remain in contention for the play-offs. The Cheetahs slipped to fourth in their conference, three points behind Glasgow Warriors, but with two games in hand.SOCCERITALIAN champions Juventus are reportedly ready to offer Adrien Rabiot in a player-plus-cash deal for Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba.Pogba’s future at Old Trafford continues to be a source of speculation after his agent, Mino Raiola, said in an interview in Italy that he would not send any of his other clients to United as they are “a club out of touch with reality” and would “ruin Maradona, Pele and Maldini”. Back in the summer, the France international revealed he was ready for a new challenge in his career and there was talk he would be heading to Spanish giants Real Madrid, who have long held an interest in the midfielder. However, a deal failed to materialise and the 26-year-old has spent much of the season on the sidelines due to foot and ankle injuries, making just seven Premier League appearances to date. A January exit could be on the cards and it is now being claimed Juventus are ready to offer Rabiot, who only joined the Old Lady on a free transfer last summer, in a swap deal with cash involved too.MAMELODI Sundowns head coach Pitso Mosimane (pictured) has cautioned optimism after reducing Kaizer Chiefs’ lead at the top of the Absa Premiership to four points with a 3-0 victory over AmaZulu on Saturday evening. After Chiefs had slipped up with a 2-1 defeat to SuperSport United earlier in the evening, Sundowns capitalised with a Sibusiso Vilakazi goal and a Themba Zwane brace. But Mosimane is not getting ahead of himself with a crucial clash against Bidvest Wits tomorrow on the the horizon.“All I know is that May is too far, it’s a lot of games behind and it doesn’t mean anything because Kaizer Chiefs can widen the gap again, we’re playing Wits, a very strong team,” Mosimane said. “We’re playing Wits all the time after two-and-half, three days. You know, it would be nice for once to open a little bit. It’s not gonna be easy.”WU Lei’s late equaliser for Espanyol against Barcelona heralds “a new chapter” in Chinese football, the country’s media declared yesterday, as the forward’s heroics went viral. The Chinese international came off the bench and struck in the 88th minute to salvage a 2-2 home draw for La Liga’s bottom club in Saturday’s derby clash. The goal was a huge talking point on Chinese social media and a trending topic on the Twitter-like Weibo, with one hashtag relating to it generating 370 million views. “Wu has now become the first Chinese player to score against Barcelona in all competitions ever,” state-run China Global Television Network (CGTN) said. The 28-year-old Wu “single-handedly revitalised Espanyol” against the Spanish champions, CGTN said. State news agency Xinhua said that Wu’s dramatic leveller from a narrow angle “sparked a wave of praise from media and fans in China”.MAMELODI Sundowns have confirmed that they have terminated the contract of Bafana Bafana striker Tokelo Rantie with immediate effect.Rantie joined the club as a free agent in September but made no starts for the Pretoria-based club over the course of the season so far.Sundowns confirmed that Rantie has been missing from training for the past month without permission and the club decided to terminate his contract as a result of this following an internal disciplinary procedure. According to the Sundowns website, a legal executive at the club, Yogesh Singh confirmed that Rantie would no longer play a part at the club.“The standard at Sundowns is high for a professional footballer and there is a zero-tolerance for ill-discipline. “Of course, players are human and we will first go through counseling to correct a player’s behavior but there is a line and when that is crossed we do not compromise the dressing-room for any individual player,” said Singh. Rantie is not the first player to fall foul of Sundown’s disciplinary procedures this season with both Musi Mashaba and Siyabonga Zulu, amongst others, released by the club.TENNISWORLD number one Rafael Nadal says that he is happy with his ATP Cup debut, especially after his lack of an off-season, but he wants to improve further. He beat Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 7-5 to help Spain to an easy win in their first tie of the fledgling tournament.Meanwhile, world number one Ashleigh Barty (pictured) will donate all her winnings from this week’s Brisbane International to the Red Cross to help the victims of Australia’s bushfire crisis. Barty revealed yesterday that she had already donated Aus$30 000 to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to help with injured wildlife, after seeing the effects of the fires back in November. But she has now decided to do more and will give her Brisbane winnings — potentially US$250 000 — to the Red Cross.“Obviously the worst of it is still out there at the moment,” she said. — AFP, SuperSport, Reuters.