Pressing Issues: A year full of sporting promise

The year 2015 promises to be a boon for South African sport.

I can’t remember a year in which so many international events had the promise of covering Mzansi’s national teams in glory and making the nation extremely proud.

Bafana Bafana, the national soccer team, lead the way as they embark on the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Equatorial Guinea from January 17 to February 8.

Then the national cricket team, the Proteas, which have secured top spot on the test table through their recent victory over the West Indies, are sure to make an impression at the ICC Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand from Valentine’s Day to March 29.

The South African Under-17 national soccer team, Amajimbos, will be participating in the 16th edition of the African Under-17 Championship, which kicks off on February 15 in Niger.

This continental tournament closes on March 1.

The Under-20 soccer team will represent South Africa at the 2015 African Under-20 Championship in Senegal from March 8 to March 22.

All that these two junior teams need is to reach the semifinals in their respective group matches, and they will qualify for Fifa World Cup matches.

The Netball Proteas will be off to their World Cup from August 7 to August 16 in Sydney, Australia.

Towards the latter part of the year, Amabokoboko (also known as the Springboks), our national rugby team, will have their turn to fly the South African flag at the IRB Rugby World Cup in England from September 18 to October 31.

Actually, Banyana Banyana started the trend by making it to the CAF African Women’s Championships in Namibia late last year.

The team did not qualify for the World Cup, which will be played in Canada later this year, having lost 1-0 to Ivory Coast in the third-place play-off.

If Bafana Bafana’s glittering performance during the qualifiers, which saw them prevent Nigeria from making it to the finals, is anything to go by, we can expect our national soccer team to cause a few upsets at the tournament.

With coach Shakes Mashaba having an axe to grind (after he was prevented from taking the team to the 2004 version), the boys might just be motivated to punch above their weight, and surprise all and sundry.

The Proteas are definitely keen to bury the “chokers” tag once and for all. This is certainly the time to do it, following a very successful year.

The Springboks will not be venturing into unknown territory either. They certainly proved this in 2007, when they won the Webb Ellis Trophy in France.

Many would agree that they were hard done by the last time around, because of some dubious refereeing decisions during their match against Australia in the Land of the Long Cloud.

These international sporting events are indeed opportunities for some rich pickings for South Africa’s leading sporting codes.

But we all know how unpredictable life can be. It can turn out to be a real glory year for the country, or one of sadness and disappointments.

Regardless of the outcomes, I think we need to celebrate and be encouraged by the fact that this year all our national teams have qualified for coveted tournaments.

This last occurred in 1992, when Safa was accepted back into the international fold.

So, it is indeed a year where our national teams can bring joy to their countrymen and elevate South Africa’s image as one of the best sporting nations in the world.

Here’s looking forward to a 2015 full of so much promise.

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