Semenya, Manyonga, Simbine in line to claim Diamond League honours

Caster Semenya has been a class apart during her 800m races in this year's IAAF Diamond League season, but she won't be the favourite in the 1500m final EPA/ABDELHAK SENNA

Following this past weekend's Birmingham meeting, six South Africans have qualified for the IAAF Diamond League finals in Zurich and Brussels at month-end.

The qualification of Caster Semenya, Luvo Manyonga, Ruswahl Samaai and Akani Simbine will come as little surprise, but Carina Horn and Wenda Nel have also secured automatic qualification and the chance of winning a Diamond Trophy.

Horn finished joint-7th -- alongside Trinidad & Tobago's Michelle-Lee Ahye -- in the 100m rankings to claim one of the eight places available for the final in which top-ranked Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou will be the clear favourite. Horn's highlight of this Diamond League season will undoubtedly be when she ran 10.98 in Doha in May to not only finally crack the sub-11 second mark but also break the national record she had set two months earlier during the South African championships. The 29-year-old Durbanite's final will take place in Zurich, as will the 400m hurdles in which Nel will run.

Nel (30), who won bronze at both the Commonwealth Games and recent African Championships, qualified by virtue of also finishing seventh on the rankings. While Janieve Russell, Dalilah Muhammad and Shamier Little will be expected to claim the podium places, reaching the final will be further fillip for the Worcester-born sprint-hurdler as she failed to make the final-8 at the 2016 Olympic Games and last year's World Championships.

Meanwhile it goes without saying that Semenya will be South Africa's star attraction for the finals, not least because she has qualified for two events.

She will be the clear favourite to defend her 800m Diamond League crown in Zurich (despite Burundi's Francine Niyonsaba having topped the rankings after competing in more meetings during the season), but will not have things her own way the following evening in Brussels when she runs in the 1500m.

Semenya won the opening race of the season in Doha in a new national record of 3:59.92, but then had to settle for sixth in Lausanne -- though also in a fast time. As such, while the likes of Sifan Hassan, Shelby Houlihan and rankings leader Gudaf Tsegay will start the final as favourites to edge her, Semenya's odds would increase should a tactical race emerge and bring her infamous late kick into play.

Of course, tactics don't come into play in the 100m or long jump so Akani Simbine as well as the pair of Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai can only rely on bringing their A-game if they want to claim the spoils.

In Birmingham Manyonga showed, once again, that he remains the man to beat in the long jump, even if it carried no points for the rankings in which he rubber-stamped his top place at the London meeting a few weeks back. The 27-year-old has made jumping 8.50m-odd seem simple this season and has only been denied wins by two men in 2018. Cuban youngster Juan Miguel Echevarria, who did so at the World Indoor Championship (ironically in Birmingham) and while jumping a massive 8.83m in Stockholm in June, is the one while the other is Samaai.

Samaai got one over his fellow Paarl-born compatriot to defend his continental title in Asaba, Nigeria earlier in August and put to bed talk that his only achievement is pushing Manyonga to greater lengths. That said the 26-year-old has yet to crack the 8.50m mark and will be aware that he tends to win bronze on the world stage -- twice in the Commonwealth Games and at London 2017 -- so will have extra motivation to out-jump Manyonga once again when they start as favourites in Zurich.

Simbine might be Commonwealth and African 100m champion but he will have to be at his best if he is to stand a chance of becoming the defacto world champion of 2018 too. The American duo of Ronnie Baker and Christian Coleman as well as Reece Prescod of Great Britain racked up more points than him during the Diamond League season and all picked up at least one win... That said, of that trio only Baker has run a faster season's best than Simbine 9.93, and Noah Lyles -- the the breakout sprinter of 2018 -- hasn't even qualified automatically for the 100m final set for Brussels (but will be the outstanding favourite the night before in the 200m in Zurich) which highlights the futility of predicting 100m winners in the post-Usain Bolt era based on that which has gone before.

Ultimately, it will come down to who performs on the day, the anticipation of which is why the IAAF changed the format of the IAAF Diamond League last year so it will be exciting to see how South Africa's best deal with expectation (in the case of Semenya and Manyonga), the lack thereof (think Horn and Nel) and the potential to upset the odds (which Samaai and Simbine are capable of).

Meanwhile, of the South Africans who have missed out automatically, 200m star Luxolo Adams might be advised to continue training as if his season isn't over yet. The 22-year-old from Burgersdorp has finished 8th on the rankings so is effectively 'first reserve' (as only seven qualify automatically in the 200m and 400m events) and would get a late invitation if somebody is unable to run the final in Zurich.

There would need to be a few more withdrawals for four of his compatriots to get lucky, and so Sunette Viljoen (javelin throw), Antonio Alkana (110m hurdles), Cornel Fredericks (400m hurdles) and Khotso Mokoena (triple jump) can effectively switch their focus onto their next goals ... which is representing Africa in the IAAF Continental Cup for the latter three.