By Oliver Field
The world of sport in 2008 provided a host of stories, drama, and excitement that will put it up as one of the most discussed in many years. In global terms, the success of the Beijing Olympics, the European Football Championships, the closest Formula One season of all time and the Indian Premier League meant that sport as a whole was always a great spectacle.
In South African terms, the Olympics weren’t too great, but other than that, things went pretty well. Trevor Immelman won the Masters, the Proteas got Test Series victories in England and Australia, the Springboks won all their games outside of the Tri-Nations and Bafana Bafana recovered well at the end of the year to win five games in a row.
So, a great year all round, but can the South African teams and the sports world in general match up to their past performances in 2009?
The Confederations Cup in June will be a massive indication of how far we’ve come along in preparation for the 2010 World Cup, both on the pitch and off. Bafana Bafana were fortunate enough to be drawn with Iraq and New Zealand, giving them a very possible route to the semi-finals. Having supporters of seven other teams in the country will also demonstrate how effective our infrastructure development has come along.
In cricketing terms, as this goes to print, the Proteas have just returned from an epic performance in Australia. The home series against our fiercest rivals will really show whether or not we are the best team in world cricket at the moment. The IPL has been boosted with even more international stars and despite the fact that this really is a trashy form of cricket fuelled by money and egos, there is no doubt that it is extremely entertaining. The Champions Trophy has been postponed to this year and with upsets like the West Indies winning a few years ago, it promises to salvage some support for the 50 overs form of the game. Peter de Villiers will be under the spotlight again this year, but victory against the British and Irish Lions, as well as a getting the Tri-Nations title, would certainly silence his biggest critics. The Super 14 will show how badly the relocation of Southern Hemisphere players to the lands of Pounds and Euros in the North has affected our much-loved competition, although I still expect it to be as exciting and brutal as ever (with far more tries than the Heineken Cup). So, my wish list for 2009 goes as follows: a South African team to win the Super 14, Bafana Bafana to win the Confederations Cup, the Springboks to win all their games throughout the year, the Proteas to have a complete whitewash series against Australia and win the Champions Trophy, a South African golfer to win one of the majors, Robbie Hunter to win the Tour de France and for Liverpool to win the Premier League and Champion’s League double. However, because of the unpredictability of sport, this dream combination of results is most likely to be disturbed. This doesn’t bother me too much, just as long as there are as many hard tackles, great centuries, spectacular goals and even better celebrations in 2009.
Finally, I’d just like to say welcome to the new first years, and to everyone else, welcome back! I’m sure I’ll see you all in the Rat throughout the year, cheering on your favourite teams and celebrating together as Rhodents.