AS 2018 draws to a close, now is a good time to look back on the year and identify South Africa’s sporting highlights.
We saw the resurgence of the Springboks, a couple of cracking Test cricket series in which the Proteas came out on top while Kevin Anderson had a simply stellar year.
With both the rugby and cricket World Cups as well as Afcon all taking place next year, 2019 has the potential to be a massive one for South African sport.
Here is our list of the top 10 South African sporting achievements of 2018:
1. Springboks stun All Blacks in Wellington
This was always going to make this list. It was one of the great Springbok performances in recent memory as Siya Kolisi and his side defended for their lives to claim a 36-34 win over the world champions in Wellington. It was South Africa’s first win in New Zealand since 2009 and images of Pieter-Steph du Toit breaking down in tears after the final whistle told you all you need to know about how big this result was.
2. Kolisi leads Boks out at Ellis Park
In the first Test against England in Johannesburg back in June, Kolisi became the first black man to captain the Springboks in a Test match. It was fitting, too, that he wore the No. 6 jersey — the same number worn by former president Nelson Mandela at the 1995 World Cup final — and that the match took place at the venue of that famous triumph 23 years ago. The Boks went on to win 42-39 in a thriller as a new era of Bok rugby got under way.
3. Blitzboks get the job done again
Sticking with rugby, Neil Powell’s Blitzboks claimed the World Rugby Sevens Series title for the second season in a row having finished as runner-ups the four previous seasons.
The Blitzboks have turned into a world force on the Sevens stage and they will be looking to repeat that dominance in 2019.
4. Lions go close once more in Super Rugby
The Lions made the Super Rugby final for the third year in a row but, once again, fell at the final hurdle to the Crusaders. The men from Johannesburg, under the new leadership of coach Swys de Bruin, were once again the standout South African team in the competition. With a number of key players having left the franchise, going the distance in 2019 could prove to be even more of a challenge.
5. Banyana Banyana do the nation proud
In what was a remarkable story, the women’s national soccer side lost to Nigeria in the final of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. Even more significantly, they qualified for the 2019 World Cup in France and achieved something that their male counterparts have not done since 1998. Coach Desiree Ellis is turning this side into one of the best on the continent, and come June next year she will hopefully have a side that can compete on the global stage.
6. Kevin Anderson flies the SA flag at Wimbledon
It was another stellar year for Anderson, who lost in the Wimbledon final in straight sets to Novak Djokovic.
Before that, Anderson had upset Roger Federer in the quarter-finals, winning 13-11 in the fifth set, before enduring another marathon against John Isner in the semi-finals to win 26-24 in the fifth. It was one of the great South African tennis stories, and surely one of the sporting highlights of the year.
7. Proteas kick off the summer with India win
In what was a superb Test series, the Proteas emerged as 2-1 winners against Virat Kohli’s India. The series will be remembered for the controversy of the third Test in Johannesburg, where a poorly prepared Wanderers wicket almost saw the match called off midway through.
It was the perfect way to start the summer, and with AB de Villiers back in the side, the Proteas were dominant.
8. Australia fall apart in SA
Make no mistake, the events that unfolded in the third Test at Newlands must never be celebrated. Australia, though, will always be one of South Africa’s great rivals and the Proteas played some scintillating cricket to emerge as 3-1 winners. There was De Kock v Warner, Rabada v Smith and then the unfortunate ball-tampering story. The cricket may have been overshadowed by other events, but this was still a memorable win for the Proteas.
9. Team SA thrives at Commonwealth Games
Akani Simbine won the men’s 100 m with Henricho Bruintjies claiming silver in what was the highlight of the Games for Team SA.
There were, however, 12 other gold medals with Chad le Clos (3), Tatjana Schoenmaker (2), Cameron van der Burgh, Caster Semenya (2), Luvo Manyonga and Henri Schoeman all standing on top of the podium. In total, Team SA won 37 medals to finish sixth on the overall table.
10. Percy Tau breaks onto the big stage
There was not much to celebrate from a Bafana Bafana point of view, but Percy Tau’s R50 million move to Brighton in the English Premiership was a big moment.
No club has ever paid more for a PSL player, and while the 24-year-old was loaned out to a Belgian club shortly after his transfer, he has still made history.
South Africa has had limited representation in the Premier League in recent years, and if Tau can break into the Brighton first side it would be a huge success story.