South Africa's sporting year in review

Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa celebrates after winning the men's 400 metres final during day five of the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championships Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It has been a year of some highs -- but mostly lows -- for South African sport, with disappointments on and off the field stealing the spotlight.

KweséESPN looks back at a busy 12 months for sport in the Rainbow Nation.


Sprint sensation Wayde van Niekerk cruised to the gold medal in the 400-metres at the 2017 World Championships in London, but later suffered a serious knee injury playing a charity touch rugby game and will miss next year's Commonwealth Games as a result. He was also narrowly relegated to silver in the 200-metres in London; an event he is looking to compete in at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.

Feel-good redemption story Luvo Manyonga proved arguably the biggest hit of the World Championships as he claimed gold in the long jump while compatriot Rushwahl Samaai secured bronze.

Caster Semenya took the gold medal in the 800-metres, but could only manage bronze in the 1 500-metres. South Africa finished a very credible third on the track & field medals table behind the USA and Kenya.

There was also an embarrassing boardroom climbdown from the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) when they gave up the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban, having all but secured staging rights. Money and the lack thereof...


It would prove another poor year for the Springboks, despite four victories in a row against a woeful French outfit, while off the pitch there was also huge disappointment for the country.

When the Boks battered the French 3-0 in a home series in June, it looked as though coach Allister Coetzee was starting to find the right formula for success with his side, especially when they won back-to-back home and away Tests against Argentina in the Rugby Championship.

But it proved a false dawn, and the months that followed would prove traumatic, most notably a humiliating 57-0 loss to New Zealand in Auckland, but also a record 38-3 defeat at the hands of Ireland and a 24-22 away defeat to Wales. The Boks also drew both their Rugby Championship games against Australia.

Seven wins from 13 Tests is below the expected 65 percent win record for Bok coaches and all the signs are that Coetzee will be relieved of his duties in the New Year.

South Africa also failed in their bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup, despite being the preferred bidder following an independent assessment of the three bidders, which also included France and Ireland. The World Rugby Council largely dismissed the assessors report and voted in favour of France, despite the fact they had hosted the competition as recently as 2007.

Meanwhile, the Johannesburg-based Lions reached the final of Super Rugby for the second year running, this time hosting the decider at Ellis Park against the Canterbury Crusaders. They could only claim silver again though, losing 25-17, not helped by a 38th-minute red card for loose-forward Kwagga Smith.

Western Province extended their record number of wins in the domestic Currie Cup competition to 34, with a 33-21 victory over the Sharks in the final in Durban, a first triumph for coach John Dobson.


South Africa's Blitzbokke were dominant in the 2016/17 World Rugby Sevens Series, winning five titles and finishing runner-up in a further three to coast to the overall trophy. The likes of Seabelo Senatla, Chris Dry and Rosko Specman were all stand-out performers for the side under coach Neil Powell.


Bafana Bafana bowed out meekly from the qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup; their fate sealed by back-to-back defeats to Cape Verde. They also later lost both home and away to Senegal.

National men's team coach Stuart Baxter is under pressure to turn things around and will likely be given the time to do so, but will have to wait until September 2018 for his next competitive fixture (barring the COSAFA Cup).

The highlights were few, but a 2-0 win in Nigeria was a massive fillip for the side in Baxter's first game in charge after the axing of Shakes Mashaba.

In 16 matches played in all competitions, including with weak squads in the African Nations Championship qualifiers and COSAFA Cup, the side collected seven wins, two draws and seven defeats.

For a group that had been touted as being an emerging force on the continent, especially after the Nigeria victory, it is a poor return and there is much soul-searching needed. A public spat with Thulani Serero, who refused to travel for the World Cup qualifiers against Senegal, did not help the environment around the team.

The South African women's national side claimed the COSAFA Women's Championship title by beating Zimbabwe 2-1 in the final, part of a fine 12 months that has also seen the nominated by CAF as Women's Team of the Year along with the Under-20 sides of Ghana and Nigeria.

National captain Janine van Wyk became the first female player from South Africa to feature in professional soccer in the United States when she turned out for Houston Dash.

Bidvest Wits claimed a first-ever league title when they triumphed in the Absa Premiership, and later also picked up the Telkom Knockout competition.

SuperSport United picked up the other two domestic trophies in the calendar year, the Nedbank Cup and MTN8, but lost in the final of the CAF Confederation Cup to TP Mazembe from the DR Congo.

Mamelodi Sundowns won the African Super Cup in February, beating Mazembe, but were ousted from the African Champions League at the semifinal stage to eventual winners Wydad Casablanca.

There were few successes for South Africans competing abroad, though striker Dino Ndlovu did shine with Azerbaijan club Qarabag and featured in the UEFA Champions League group stages.

Notable moves included Bongani Zungu joining French Ligue 1 side Amiens from Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal, while Keagan Dolly moved to France as well, to Montpellier from Sundowns.


It has been a mixed year for South Africa's Test team, with series wins against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh (both home) and New Zealand (away), but they were well beaten in the 'big one' when going down 3-1 in England.

That ultimately cost coach Russell Domingo his job and he was replaced by West Indian Ottis Gibson ahead of the Bangladesh series. Gibson had been acting as England bowling coach.

The country will now embark on uncharted territory with not only the first day/night Test on home soil, but also the first ever four-day Test, all of which takes place against Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth on Boxing Day.

This will also mark the comeback to the longest format of the game for former Test skipper AB de Villiers, with Tests against India and Australia to come in the New Year.

The national side won 13 of their 19 One Day Internationals, but crucially disappointed in the Champions Trophy in England in June, the venue for the World Cup in 2019. They beat Sri Lanka, before losing to Pakistan and India to bow out in the first round.

It was also a mixed year in the Twenty20 arena, with five wins and four defeats. They lost series to both Sri Lanka (home) and England (away). David Miller did manage the fastest-ever century in the format though, with 101 off 36 balls against Bangladesh.

South African also reached the semifinals of the 2017 Women's Cricket World Cup and came close to beating eventual champions England, losing by two wickets with two balls remaining in the match.


Branden Grace became the first South African winners of 'Africa's Major' in 10 years when he claimed the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, which carried a first prize of some R17-million.

Darren Fichardt, Dean Burmester, Dylan Frittelli (twice) and Haydn Porteous all also won on the European Tour. Brandon Stone won the 2016/17 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, claiming R7.4-million in the process.


Gift Ngoepe became the first South African to feature in Major League Baseball when he turned out for the Pittsburgh Pirates, debuting in April. He ended the season with 12 hits and a batting average of .222. In November he was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for cash considerations or a player to be named later.


Chad le Clos continued to fly the flag for South Africa, claiming gold in the 200-metres butterfly at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships, with Cameron van den Bergh's bronze in the 50-metre breaststroke the only other medal at the event.