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Posted on: Wednesday, 19 August 2009

This Week in South African Sports

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Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya

South Africa pinning hopes on Caster Semenya in Berlin
The 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin are well under way and there have been some phenomenal performances on display with Jamaican sprinting sensation Usain Bolt’s unbelievable 9.58 secs in the 100m final, undoubtedly the pick of the bunch. However, the South African contingent have struggled to achieve their potential in a fiercely competitive environment, with medal hopes LJ van Zyl, Sunnette Viljoen and Ruben Ramolefi failing to produce the goods when it counted most.

Van Zyl was blown away by the competition in the first of Sunday night’s 400m hurdles semi-finals, clocking an ordinary 48.80 secs for sixth position. The bitterly disappointed Van Zyl, his face expressing an intense state of anguish, left the track without offering any comments to the media, and one hopes that the talented youngster will not allow this setback to destroy his confidence as he still has a promising career ahead of him.

Javelin thrower Viljoen went into Berlin ranked fifth in the world, but her form deserted her as she could only muster a best throw of 56.83m which was significantly short of the eventual 59.46m that closed the top 12 positions for the final, won by Steffi Nerius of Germany (67.30m). Ramolefi did manage to qualify for the 3 000m steeplechase final, but was devoured by the quality field to finish 13th in a very disappointing 8 min, 32.54 secs. Ezekial Kemboi of Kenja won the race in a brilliant 8 min, 0.43 secs to capture a gold medal for his country.

With South African hopes for a medal dwindling fast, it will likely be left to Caster Semenya (pictured with No 345) to bring home some silverware for her country. The powerful 18-year-old will be up against a top class field in tonight’s 800m final (9.35pm on SuperSport1), but should have enough left in the tank to secure at least a bronze medal.

Pedrie Wannenburg

Pedrie Wannenburg

Bulls squeak past Griquas while Sharks devour Lions
Round six of the 2009 Absa Currie Cup saw some exciting action with the pick of the weekend’s games undoubtedly the Blue Bulls’ narrow 25-24 win over Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday. High flying Griquas, who hadn’t put a foot wrong the entire season thus far winning all five of their matches, came up against a motivated Bulls outfit desperate to rebound from their surprising defeat to the Cheetahs the previous weekend.

Replacement loose forward Pedrie Wannenburg (pictured) scored the winning try for the visitors when he barged his way over the line to dot down under the posts with less than two minutes remaining. Flyhalf Burton Francis then calmly slotted the extra two points to seal Griquas’ fate. However, despite suffering their first defeat this year, Griquas still remain on top of the Currie Cup standings with 24 points – two points clear of the second placed Sharks who defeated the Lions 30-19 in Johannesburg.

The Sharks made full use of their chances in the first half and went into the break 17-0 to the good despite the Lions getting the better of the forward exchanges. Sharks flyhalf Monty Dumond banged over two penalties to stretch the visitors’ lead to 23-0 and with just 10 minutes remaining in the game the Lions were staring a whitewash in the face.

However, the hosts took advantage of their opponent’s complacency to run in three quick tries by Cobus Grobbelaar, Derek Minnie and Ruan Boshoff to add some respectability to the scoreline. The Sharks deserved their win, but conceding 19 points in the last 10 minutes was unnecessary and the KwaZulu-Natalians will have to tighten up their game somewhat if they hope to keep the Currie Cup trophy in Durban this year. In other games Western Province easily defeated the Boland Cavaliers 38-7 in Wellington while the Cheetahs crushed the hapless Leopards 71-7 in Potchefstroom.

Round seven action this Friday sees the Bulls at home to the Leopards (don’t be surprised if the men in blue hit triple figures here) while Saturday’s matches pit the Lions against Western Province at Newlands, the Sharks against Griquas in Durban and the Cheetahs against the Cavaliers in Bloemfontein. The pick of these games is likely to be the Durban encounter, with little to choose between the defending champions and the men from the Griquas.

Absa Currie Cup Log after six rounds
Pos Team P W D L PF PA PD TF TA BPts Pts
1 GWK Griquas 6 5 0 1 224 112 112 28 13 4 24
2 Sharks 6 5 0 1 175 98 77 17 9 2 22
3 Vodacom Western Province 6 4 0 2 188 105 83 20 9 4 20
4 Vodacom Blue Bulls 6 4 0 2 152 120 32 17 11 3 19
5 Xerox Lions 6 3 0 3 141 126 15 14 10 3 15
6 Vodacom Free State Cheetahs 6 2 0 4 160 131 29 18 10 2 10
7 Boland 6 1 0 5 81 251 -170 8 35 1 5
8 Platinum Leopards 6 0 0 6 87 265 -178 10 35 0 0

Meanwhile, Australian flyhalf Matt Giteau has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the International Rugby Board (IRB) after his dubious challenge on Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez in the previous weekend’s Tri-Nations encounter at Newlands. Giteau smashed Du Preez to the ground with a reckless foreman challenge that left the Bok No 9 dazed and disorientated for a number of minutes during the match, and was sin-binned for his efforts.

However, Giteau was cleared of any significant wrongdoing and escaped a ban, which many thought he deserved since his challenge on Du Preez seemed to smack of premeditation. The Boks once again face the Wallabies on August 29 and tensions are likely to be running high between both teams following the somewhat ill tempered Newlands encounter, which saw the Australians conceding three yellow cards.

Dipsy Selolwane

Dipsy Selolwane

Ajax and Arrows win opening MTN8 semis
Ajax Cape Town and Golden Arrows drew first blood in the first leg of the MTN8 semi-finals when they defeated Kaizer Chiefs and AmaZulu respectively over the weekend. Ajax triumphed over their more illustrious opponents 1-0 courtesy of a 62nd minute penalty strike by Dipsy Selolwane (pictured) at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town on Saturday. The match was a tense struggle between two well-matched teams, but Ajax made better use of their opportunities to prevail in a very close encounter, which could have gone either way. The two teams meet in the second leg at the Orlando Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is at 3pm.

In the other first leg semi-final played on Sunday, Arrows proved too much for AmaZulu to handle with Abafana Bes’thende triumphing 2-1 courtesy of a brace of goals by striker, and newly capped Bafana Bafana player, Richard Henyekane. Midfielder Litha Ngxabi pulled one back for the home side in the 90th minute, but by then it was far too late for Amazulu to pull this one out of the fire. The return clash will again be played at the Chatsworth Stadium in Durban on Saturday evening at 8.15pm.

The Absa Premier Soccer League (PSL) season continues this week with a host of teams doing battle. In a game played yesterday, Supersport United defeated Kaizer Chiefs 1-0 while today’s matches are as follows:

Golden Arrows vs Jomo Cosmos – Chatsworth Stadium – On now
Platinum Stars vs AmaZulu – Royal Bafokeng Stadium – 7.30pm
Santos vs Bloem Celtic – Newlands Stadium – 7.30pm
Black Aces vs Moroka Swallows – Puma Rugby Stadium – 7.30pm
Free State Stars vs Ajax Cape Town – Charles Mopeli Stadium – 7.30pm
Orlando Pirates vs Mamelodi Sundowns – Coca-Cola Park – 7.30pm
Bidvest Wits vs Maritzburg Utd – Bidvest Stadium – 8pm

Meanwhile, it has been reported that SuperSport player Petrus Mahlatsi has been discharged from a Pietermaritzburg hospital following his sickening mid-air collision with Maritzburg’s Byrone Hendricks in a PSL clash that took place on August 7 at Woodburn Stadium. Although he sustained a rather serious head injury (the exact details of which have not been made known) it is comforting news to hear that Mahlatsi is out of hospital and will definitely resume his career although he has been sidelined for at least two months as a result of the injury.

Zolani Marali

Zolani Marali

‘Untouchable’ to defend title against ‘Volcano’
Talented South African fighter Zolani ‘Untouchable’ Marali (pictured) will defend his International Boxing Organisation (IBO) super featherweight title against Korea’s Ji Hoon Kim at Emperor’s Palace, east of Johannesburg, on September 12. Marali will be making his first defence of the title he won when he defeated Mexican Gamaliel Diaz on points over 12 rounds at Emperor’s Palace on April 2 this year.

The 32-year-old southpaw from Mdatsane in the Eastern Cape has an impressive record of 20 wins and two defeats with 13 of those victories coming via the short route. The 22-year-old Kim, who is nicknamed the Volcano due to his explosiveness in the ring, will come into this fight brimming with confidence after stopping nine of his last ten opponents and Marali will have to be careful of exposing his chin against the hard punching Korean in what promises to be a cracking contest.

In other fights on the bill, the exciting Grant Fourie will square off against Jason Biederman for the IBO continental lightweight belt while Thomas ‘Tommy Gun’ Oosthuizen will swap punches with Brazil’s Cleber Alves in a contest for the IBO youth super middleweight title. In another intriguing match up, Kenya’s Douglas Otieno will tackle Isaac Chilembe for the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) Africa light-heavyweight title. Former world light welterweight and welterweight champion Ricky Hatton will attend the tournament as a TV commentator for the “Night of the Gladiators” tournament.

In another very important bout for South African boxing, local boy Malcolm Klassen will defend his International Boxing Federation (IBF) junior lightweight title against Robert Guerrero in Houston, Texas on Saturday evening. Guerrero is considered by many to be the best in the world in the division, but Klassen will be brimming with confidence after his crushing victory over the highly experienced Cassius Baloyi in his last outing and it will not be surprising if he pulls off a victory against Guerrero.

In international action over the weekend, 40-year-old Roy Jones Jr won the battle of the hooks when ‘Captain Hook’ as Jones Jr is calling himself these days, pounded out an 11th round TKO victory over faded former IBF super-middleweight champion Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy. Jones will face newly crowned IBO cruiserweight champion Danny Green who stopped Julio Cesar Dominguez on the undercard to take the title. Australian Green’s previous fight was against former South African middleweight champion Anthony van Niekerk, whom he destroyed inside two rounds in April this year. Jones also has a South African victim on his record, the former multiple weight world champion knocked out former World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Federation (WBF) super-middleweight champion Thulani ‘Sugerboy’ Malinga way back in 1993.

Jaco Ahlers

Jaco Ahlers

Jaco triumphs in playoff at Erinvale
Jaco Ahlers (pictured) is the new Vodacom Business Origins of Golf Tour Erinvale champion. The 27-year-old South African, who hails from Centurion in Pretoria, defeated Ulrich van den Berg in a playoff to take the title and claim a maiden professional victory. Ahlers and Van Den Burgh both produced rounds of 71 and 68 at the end of regulation play (the match had been reduced to just 36 holes as a result of bad weather) to tie for the lead on nine under par, forcing the playoff.

Ahlers kept his cool and secured the win by holing his putt for birdie on the opening playoff hole (the 18th) while Van Den Burg could only muster par for second place. The tournament raised R228 000 for charity with cellular communications giant Vodacom donating R500 for every birdie recorded during the tournament.

Final Scores (Top eight finishers only)
135 – Jaco Ahlers 64 71 (won on first hole of sudden death playoff)
135 – Ulrich van den Berg 67 68
136 – Jaco Van Zyl 71 65
138 – Doug McGuigan 69 69, Reggie Adams 67 71
139 – Chris Swanepoel 71 68, Andrew Curlewis 70 69, Dewald Smit 67 72

Meanwhile, South African stalwart Ernie Els recorded one under 287 to finish in joint sixth position in the PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota, USA. The ‘Big Easy’ recorded rounds of 75, 68, 70 and 74 to tie with three other players for sixth while fellow South African Tim Clark shot a final round 74 for one over 289 to share sixteenth position with Hunter Mahan of the U.S. and Vijay Singh of Fiji. Other South Africans in the field included Charl Schwartzel (294), Retief Goosen (295) and Rory Sabbatini (299). The tournament was one by Yang Yong-Eun of Korea (280) who defeated legendary American Tiger Woods by three strokes.

Hennie Gronewald

Hennie Gronewald

Hennie makes it a double at Zwarkops
There was no stopping triple South African Wesbank V8 Champion Hennie Gronewald (Timken Holden) at the Zwartkops International Raceway on Saturday when he won both races to mount a serious challenge to the Auby family who have dominated the competition this year. Groenwald (pictured) now lies in joint third position with Deon Auby (ELT Holden) in the championship with six races left. Championship leader Marc Auby (ELT Jaguar) finished 1.3 secs behind Groenwald in the first race with 17-year-old brother Brandon (ELT Jaguar) and father Deon finishing third and fourth respectively.

The second race saw Groenwald start in the middle of the field, but his aggressive driving enabled him to pass seven cars to tuck in behind Franco di Matteo (Varta Jaguar) for second position. Di Matteo was however denied a chance of victory when he broke a half- shaft going into the last lap allowing Gronewald through to take a comfortable three second win from Deon Auby with Richard Pinard (Timken Jaguar) third and Jaco Correia fourth.

There was also plenty of action in the Bridgestone Production Car Championship with former national champion Leeroy Poulter (GP Windscreens Nissan 350Z) emerging as the overall winner for the day in round six of the championships. Poulter finished fifth overall after qualifying in fifth position for race one with team-mate Marco da Cunha (Tubular Nissan 350Z) finishing just out of the points in ninth position. The race was one by Melvill Priest (Audi A4) who drove very professionally to secure the win from Michale Stephen (Audi Quattro).

Race two saw Poulter slug it out with championship leader Johan Fourie (Audi Quattro) for second place with the Nissan driver prevailing by a mere 0.8 secs. Anthony Taylor (BMW 330i) won the race after leading from start to finish. There are still three rounds of the championship remaining with 10 points separating first from fourth in the class A title chase. Taylor enjoys a slender two-point (80-78) lead over Fourie with Poulter just nine points adrift of Taylor.

The non-stop action continued for spectators in the Engen Volkswagen Polo Cup, which saw team-mates Devin Robertson and Gennaro Bonafede emerge from round six of the championship in second and third places respectively in the points standings. Bonafede was credited with third overall for the day after finishing fifth and fourth in the two heats, while Robertson lost his championship lead after being involved in incidents in both races which meant he only scored nine points for a 10th and a seventh. Mathew Hodges now leads the championship with 126 points with Robertson (114) and Bonafede (102) in second and third respectively. Byran Morgan is lying in fourth position on 92 points.

The next round of all three championships takes place on September 5 at Phakisa Freeway in the Free State.

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