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Posted on: Wednesday, 24 March 2010

South African Sports News – 24 March

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Siphiwe Tshabalala

Siphiwe Tshabalala

Bafana tick all the right boxes
Bafana Bafana’s preparations for the Fifa World Cup in June are going well. The South Africans have already played six matches on their tour of Brazil so far and with an impressive record of four wins and two draws, which includes 13 goals and none conceded, it’s clear that the South Africans are moving in the right direction under the tutorship of coach Carlos Alberto Parreira.

On Saturday, Bafana defeated Brazilian league side Botafogo 1-0 at the Engenhao Stadium courtesy of a goal from Siphiwe Tshabalala (pictured right). Tshabalala’s goal was his fourth in five matches and came from a free kick after a sustained period of pressure from the South Africans.

“It was very hot and it was a tough match, but that’s good for us as we are getting some experience. I think we are well on track to be a well-oiled machine,” said Tshabalala.

“I have to say we have improved a lot, we are working very hard and the results are there for all to see. We are getting some much-needed experience and if we continue like this, we should be in tip-top condition in three months time,” added Katlego Mphela.

The match also saw defender Lucas Thwala featuring in the Bafana starting line-up for the first time since the beginning of their training camp in Brazil, relegating Innocent Mdledle to the bench. Thwala, just like Surprise Moriri, was playing only his second match of the tour.

“We are achieving our goals of getting the team in the right frame of mind, getting shape, working on the identity, increasing speed and building confidence in the players,” explained Parreira.  “We are getting there slowly but surely but we are not ready yet for the tournament, especially because we still have to incorporate the overseas-based players in the side,” he added.

Bafana now travel to Sao Paolo for the second leg of their training camp where they will play three more practice matches against Brazilian league sides. The South Africans will do battle with Desportivo Brasil tomorrow before locking horns with Palmeiras on Saturday.

The following week they travel to Asuncion for a return fixture against Paraguay. The match will be take place on Wednesday.  The first match was played in South Africa with the hosts prevailing 3-0 in Parreira’s last match in charge of Bafana in his first stint as coach. The last match on the tour of South America will be against Santos in Sao Paolo next Saturday.

Meanwhile, Maritzburg United goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters has been selected as a replacement for injured Bafana keeper Emille Baron who returned home on Tuesday due to a shoulder injury. Walters is expected to arrive in Brazil in the next few days. Moeneeb Josephs and Itumeleng Khune are the other keepers in the squad.

In local action which took place over the weekend, Amazulu, Jomos Cosmos, Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns all booked their places in the last eight of the Telkom Knockout Cup competition with victories over Maritzurg United, Bidvest Wits, Santos and Free State Stars respectively.

In matches played on Saturday, AmaZulu defeated United 1-0 at the Moses Mabhida Stadium while Cosmos downed Wits 2-0 at the Bidvest Stadium. In Sunday encounters, Chiefs triumphed 4-3 over Santos on penalties after the teams were deadlocked at full time at Newlands Stadium, while Sundowns prevailed by the same scoreline against Stars at the Charles Mopeli Stadium in a thriller.

Quarter-final lineup
Chiefs vs Sundowns
Orlando Pirates vs Cosmos
Ajax Cape Town vs Golden Arrows
SuperSport United vs AmaZulu

Paul Treu

Paul Treu

Blitsbokke lose their way
The Springbok Sevens side squandered a golden opportunity to retain their Adelaide Sevens title on a day of upsets as they went out in the quarter-finals after a surprising loss to Argentina. Their disappointment didn’t stop there though, as the Blitsbokke then battled their way into the Plate final only to succumb 21-14 to a more experienced New Zealand outfit.

Samoa went on to secure their second title in a row on the IRB Sevens circuit, adding Adelaide to their Las Vegas success with an emphatic 38-10 drubbing of surprise finalists the USA to close within two points of New Zealand at the top of the log with just three tournaments remaining. While coach Paul Treu’s side are still very young and were hampered by injuries, they will be disappointed with the way they played.

Adelaide turned out to be a graveyard for the big teams as Kenya and England were knocked out before the quarter-finals, and in a peculiar string of results, New Zealand, Fiji, Wales and the Blitsbokke joined them as the underdogs won each game in dramatic fashion. Although the Blitsbokke looked uncomfortable against Argentina they nevertheless managed to take what appeared to be a winning 14-12 lead only to crash out of the Cup tournament after the South Americans clinched victory with a last gasp try by Diego Palma.

And so the Blitsbokke were dispatched to the Plate competition where they thumped Wales 29-0 while New Zealand narrowly won a bruising encounter against Fiji 24-21. In the Plate final, the Blitsbokke’s defence was often penetrated by the Kiwis, but they managed to draw level at 14-all at the interval after tries by Kyle Brown and Sampie Mastriet.

New Zealand scored again in the second half, and with Treu (pictured) appealing for calm from the sideline, their inexperience counted against the Blitsbokke as they committed a series of unforced errors, which cost them the match. England defeated Kenya 33-12 to clinch victory in the Shield final, while Japan squeaked home 22-19 against Tonga to secure the Bowl trophy.

The Blitsbokke now find themselves in seventh position on the IRB standings, level with Kenya on 44 points and a monumental 52 points adrift of the Kiwis. The IRB World Sevens Series continues this weekend with the Hong Kong Sevens – a tournament that the Blitsbokke have never won.

Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

Sharks finally get a win
The Sharks produced a strong second half performance to defeat the Highlanders 30-16 in their Super 14 encounter at Carisbrooke in Dunedin on Saturday. It was the Durban outfit’s first win of the competition and coach John Plumtree and captain John Smit will be relieved that the Sharks have finally managed to break their duck after five consecutive losses.

However, the Sharks were made to work hard for their win by a motivated Highlanders outfit who, despite being positioned towards the bottom of the log with just one win in five games, came into the match with a fair amount of confidence after scoring five tries against the log leading Vodacom Bulls in their previous fixture.

The New Zealanders quickly established a 6-3 lead courtesy of two penalties from fullback Israel Dagg but the Sharks hit back with a try from Bismarck du Plessis (pictured) to make it 10-6 shortly after 20 minutes. Du Plessis’ try came at a crucial time for the Sharks as up until that point the Highlanders had dominated possession and territory, forcing the visitors to defend like Trojans just to stay in the match.

For the first time in the game the Sharks advanced strongly up field and after a series of movements Du Plessis thrust himself towards the post to score, although television replays seemed to suggest that the burly hooker was a tad lucky to have had the try awarded.

Ruan Pienaar, who started the game at scrumhalf but moved to flyhalf with half an hour left to play, stretched the Sharks’ lead to 16-9 after 55 minutes with two well taken penalty goals to go with an earlier effort and the conversion of Du Plessis’ try, and when Stephen Terblanche went over for another converted try, the visitors seemed high and dry. However, a try from Ben Smith made it 14-23 and when Dagg added the conversion the home side were just seven points away from securing a draw.

They nearly got it when their replacement wing appearing to have gone over in the left corner for a try, but he was adjudged to have scraped touch in goal at the same time as he grounded the ball on the corner flag meaning the referee could not award the try. The marginal decision seemed to deflate the home side somewhat and when they conceded a soft intercept try to centre Adrian Jacobs a few minutes later the match was effectively over as a contest.

With a 14 point advantage and just a few minutes left on the clock, the Sharks were never going to lose from there, and although they will no doubt be unhappy with several aspects of their play, they undoubtedly deserved their victory courtesy of their strong second half performance. The Sharks now find themselves in 11th place on the log with eight points, two clear of the Highlanders in 12th spot.

Sharks: 30 – Tries: Bismarck du Plessis, Stefan Terblanche and Adrian Jacobs. Conversions: Ruan Pienaar 3. Penalties: Pienaar 3.
Highlanders: 16 – Try: Ben Smith. Conversion: Israel Dagg. Penalties: Dagg 3.

Other results (from left to right; SA teams in bold)
Blues 39 – Brumbies 34 – Auckland
Bulls 19 – Hurricanes 18 – Loftus Versveld, Pretoria
Crusaders 46 – Lions 19 – Christchurch
Western Force 10 – Waratahs 14 – Perth
Stormers 21 – Cheetahs 8 – Newlands, Cape Town

With the competition nearing the half way point the Bulls and the Stormers occupy the top two positions on the log and look like excellent candidates for securing semi-final berths while the Sharks, Lions and Cheetahs are struggling and would do well to finish in the top seven before the conclusion of the competition in May.

The Cheetahs are the only South African team playing on home shores this week when they host the Reds on Friday evening and although the visitors have the better record this season, the Free Staters will be a tough nut to crack on the bone hard Vodacom Park pitch.

Upcoming fixtures (SA teams in bold)
Highlanders vs Lions – Dunedin – 8.35am
Brumbies vs Chiefs – Canberra – 10.40am
Cheetahs vs Reds – Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein – 7.10pm
Hurricanes vs Sharks – Wellington – 8.35am
Waratahs vs Blues – Sydney – 10.40am
Western Force vs Bulls – Perth – 1.10pm

Alistair Grey

Alistair Grey

Cobras stay in front
The Nashua Cape Cobras cruised to an emphatic 10-wicket victory over the Nashua Dolphins on the fourth and final day of their SuperSport Series match at Newlands in Cape Town on Sunday. The home side dismissed the Dolphins for 225 in their second innings, just over 30 minutes after the lunch interval, leaving them a paltry 24 runs for victory. They made short work of the target as Alistair Grey (pictured left next to teammate Vernon Philander) smashed 28 runs off 10 balls to propel the Cobras to 29/0 off just 11 deliveries.

The win all but assures the Cobras of the title as they extended their lead over the second placed Nashua Titans to 16.30 points with one match to play. Earlier, seamer Philander grabbed 4/33 while left-arm spinner Robin Peterson bagged 3/37 as the Cobras ended the Dolphins’ follow-on innings. A battling half-century from Ahmed Amla had led a courageous defensive effort from the visitors, but they suffered a middle-order collapse to slide from 187/4 to 189/7 after 74.1 overs.

The visitors started the day on 109/4, still requiring 92 runs to force the Cobras to bat again, with Amla and Brad Moses at the crease. Amla brought up his third fifty of the season off 96 balls but he was out shortly before lunch for a gutsy 68 off 133 balls when he was trapped leg-before by Peterson.

Debutant Moses provided excellent support for Amla as he chewed up 91 deliveries in scoring 24 runs. The duo frustrated the Cobras’ bowlers for 31.3 overs as they put on 92 for the fifth wicket before Moses was castled by medium-pacer Stiaan van Zyl to reduce the Dolphins to 187/5. Having finally broken the troublesome partnership the Cobras achieved further success one run later when Khaya Zondo (one) was trapped leg before by Peterson.

The Dolphins went to lunch on 190/7 and a 29-run eighth-wicket stand between Jon Kent (19) and Quinton Friend (11) frustrated the home side after the break before veteran Kent offered keeper Ryan Canning a catch after nicking a delivery from Philander.  The Cobras seamer then wrapped up the innings as he removed Friend and Keshav Maharaj (four) to leave the visitors well short of runs.

Scores in brief
Cape Cobras: 477/8 declared & 29/0.
Dolphins: 276 & 225 all out.
Result: Cobras won by 10 wickets.
Man of the match: Andrew Puttick and Stiaan van Zyl.

Other results
The Diamond Eagles beat the Chevrolet Warriors by an innings and 15 runs at the OUTsurance Oval in Bloemfontein.
The Titans beat the bizhub Highveld Lions by two wickets at Willowmoore Park in Benoni.

The Cobras begin their final match of the competition against the Warriors in East London on Thursday and must start as firm favourites after the Warriors’ resounding defeat to the Diamond Eagles in Bloemfontein on Sunday.

The Dolphins, who have had a poor competition with the result that they find themselves at the bottom of the log, face the Lions at Kingsmead in their last match and will be desperate to end off the season on a high note in front of their home crowd.

Thursday’s other game is between the Eagles and Titans at SuperSport Park in Centurion and although the Titans have the edge courtesy of their home ground advantage, they will do well not to underestimate the Eagles who produced some exceptional cricket to defeat the Warriors this past weekend.

Ali Funeka

Ali Funeka

SA fighters go hunting for world titles
In an unusual turn of events no less than three local boxers will be aiming to capture world championships on the same weekend when Takalani ‘Panther’ Ndlovu, Ali ‘Rush Hour’ Funeka (pictured) and Nkosinathi Joyi all do battle against international opponents. The 27-year-old Joyi (20-0; 15 KO’s) is a talented southpaw with a powerful punch and should be a worthy challenger for International Boxing Federation (IBF) mini-flyweight champion Raul Garcia (27-0-1; 16 KO’s) of Mexico.

Joyi is a former South African and International Boxing Organisation (IBO) mini-flyweight champion and earned the right to challenge Garcia for the title by easily outpointing the highly regarded Florante Condes of the Phillipines in June last year. Garcia defeated Condes by split decision in June 2008 to capture the IBF belt. The diminutive pugilists do battle over 12 rounds in East London on Friday evening and the action will be televised live on SABC 2 at 10pm.

Ndlovu (30-5; 18 KO’s) will try to capture the vacant IBF junior featherweight title in Ontario, Canada on Saturday night when he takes on local fighter Steve ‘The Canadian Kid’ Molitor (31-1; 12 KO’s). The 29-year-old Molitor should have the edge over Ndlovu having scored a dominant ninth round technical knockout victory over ‘The Panther’ in Rama, Canada nearly three years ago. Nevertheless Molitor can expect a tough fight from the seasoned Ndlovu, a former IBO junior featherweight champion, who will be itching to gain revenge against the only man to ever have stopped him.

In another rematch, Funeka (30-2-3; 25 KO’s) will swap leather with Joan Guzman (29-0-1; 17 KO’s) for the vacant IBF lightweight championship in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday night. Guzman, who hails from the Dominican Republic, fought Funeka to a draw in Quebec City, Canada in November last year, but many pundits felt the South African was robbed by the judges prompting the IBF to order a rematch.

Funeka, who at 6’1’ is freakishly tall for a lightweight, will be hoping to utilise his massive advantages in height and reach to outbox the much shorter Guzman. The fight will be televised live on SuperSport 6 (SS6) at 4am on Sunday.

In more fight action taking place over the weekend, Themba Joyi (8-1-1; 6 KO’s) defends his South African junior bantamweight title against veteran Zolile ‘Bonecrusher’ Mbityi (34-13-3; 11 KO’s) in East London on Saturday night. The 39-year-old Mbityi is on a six fight winning streak and will be confident of upsetting the younger and relatively inexperienced Joyi who is still fairly new to the fight game. The contest will be televised live on SS7 at 8pm.

The South African light-heavyweight championship will be up for grabs at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park on Tuesday night when veteran Rupert van Aswegen (14-6-2; 7 KO’s) squares off against Balemo Weliya (6-0; 2 KO’s) for the vacant title. The experienced Van Aswegen, a nephew of former World Boxing Association (WBA) heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee, should have too many guns for the inexperienced Weliya who has only had six fights in three and a half years as a professional.

Van Aswegen and Weliya’s bout forms part of two box-and-dine tournaments to be held on successive nights at the venue near Johannesburg. Golden Gloves and feeder promoters African Ring will present the events on Monday and Tuesday night with the proceeds from the second tournament being donated to the seriously ill Rodney Hartman, one of South Africa’s top sportswriters.

Meanwhile, it has been announced that Hekkie Budler will defend his IBO junior flyweight title against Juanito Rubillar in a rematch at Emperors Palace on Saturday, July 19. And this time only one South African judge will be included in the three-man panel.

Golden Gloves CEO Rodney Berman, whose organisation promoted last month’s fight in which Budler gained a controversial points decision over Rubillar to capture the vacant belt, confirmed this on Tuesday. All three judges were South Africans.

“It was never our intention to have a panel of three South African judges, but one of the officials chosen by the IBO had visa problems and did not arrive in time,” explained Berman. This time we will make sure there are no clouds hanging over the verdict,” he added.

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