Springboks and Proteas take a back seat to boxing, BAL, and Banyana in 2022

Dana White calls fight fixing a 'huge concern' for UFC (1:12)

UFC president Dana White talks about the concerns of fight fixing and advising fighters to stay away from betting. (1:12)

This past year saw historic moments in South African basketball and boxing, broadcasted live on ESPN Africa, while Banyana Banyana bagged the Women's Africa Cup of Nations title.

Banyana finally got over the final hurdle at the WAFCON after several near misses in previous years, while Cameron Saaiman joined Dricus du Plessis on the UFC roster in style.

Banyana Banyana carry the flag

South Africa finished as runners-up in the WAFCON in 1995, 2000, 2008, 2012 and 2018. They finished third in 2006 and 2010 and fourth in 2002, 2014 and 2016.

Banyana fans could have been forgiven for thinking that they were destined never to win the coveted trophy, which before this year had only ever been lifted by Nigeria (11 times) and Equatorial Guinea (twice).

However, in arguably the most memorable sporting triumph of South Africa's year, Desiree Ellis coached the team she once captained to a title that had eluded her as a player.

Banyana began in the best possible fashion with a 2-1 win over Nigeria, but looked less assured in a 3-1 win over Burundi. Star striker Thembi Kgatlana ruptured her achilles tendon in the 1-0 win over Botswana, but South Africa still went on to beat Tunisia and then Zambia by the same scoreline, though they rode their luck against the Copper Queens in particular.

For a team with such a dismal record at the final hurdle, Banyana showed nerves of steel to beat Morocco 2-1 in the final, with a brace from Hildah Magaia sealing an historic triumph.

Bafana Bafana still lagging behind

After a promising second half of 2021, which saw them come agonisingly close to a FIFA World Cup qualification playoff spot, men's national team Bafana Bafana once again fell off the pace in 2022.

Coach Hugo Broos lost the momentum he had picked up in his first five months as boss. The year began with two disappointing performances in a 0-0 draw with Guinea and a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of France.

A 2-1 defeat followed in South Africa's first 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. Although their performance was respectable, they were soon in the headlines for the wrong reasons again as Broos took a swipe at the quality of football in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), leading to a backlash and an apology days later.

A second-string Bafana side finished fifth in July's COSAFA Cup. Although the African Nations Championship qualifiers also did not see Bafana Bafana's best players, their 6-1 aggregate second round defeat to Angola was a worrying sign.

Bafana did, at least, finish the year with four straight matches undefeated against fellow African opponents. Wins over Sierra Leone (4-0), Botswana (1-0) and Mozambique (2-1) were followed by a 1-1 draw with Angola.

READ: The moments that defined sports in 2022

Mixed bag for the Boks

The Springboks had another mixed year, with young players such as Kurt-Lee Arendse, Evan Roos and Canan Moodie progressing in leaps and bounds with a World Cup looming. But, a record of eight wins and five defeats meaning they head into the 2023 World Cup year as underdogs, as they were in 2019 when they won the trophy in Japan.

Likewise, the Springbok Women have cause for both optimism and pessimism, having played some exciting rugby at the World Cup in New Zealand only to finish bottom of Pool C, behind England, France and Fiji.

On the Sevens front, the Blitzboks finished second in the World Series, behind Australia, and bombed out of the World Cup in Cape Town with a disappointing seventh-place finish. They were nevertheless at least able to claim the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.

The women's Sevens team - the Imbokodo - finished 16th in the World Series and lost 29-0 to France in the round of 16 at the World Cup.

Proteas their own worst enemies

The men's national cricket team once again underwhelmed after a spell of much promise at the T20 World Cup in Australia.

After a strong performance against Zimbabwe in a game which unfortunately finished with no result, followed by a convincing win over Bangladesh and even a five-wicket victory over India, South Africa looked as if they were one of the teams to beat.

However, defeats to Pakistan and, embarrassingly, the Netherlands meant that they fell short of a semi-final spot.

At the women's 50-over World Cup, South Africa at least fared slightly better, reaching the semi-finals in New Zealand before a 137-run defeat to England.

Cape Town Tigers put South African basketball on the map

South Africa's men's national basketball team has not played competitively since AfroBasket 2017, but the Cape Town Tigers carried the flag admirably for the nation at the 2022 Basketball Africa League (BAL) in their first appearance.

The Tigers, captained by Pieter Prinsloo, bolstered their roster ahead of the BAL with the likes of Jamel Artis, Billy Preston Jr. and later Cleanthony Early, who replaced Artis ahead of the playoffs.

Perhaps their standout player, however, was Central African Republic small forward Evans Ganapamo, who scored the game-winning shot in their first ever BAL victory - a 73-70 win over Cameroon's FAP - and secured NBA Summer League game time for the Milwaukee Bucks after the BAL.

However, the Tigers' lack of cohesion showed at times and they were annihilated by eventual champions US Monastir in the quarter-finals. Since then, they have looked more promising as a unit and look likely to improve in 2023 - or, at the very least, match their 2022 performance.

South Africa becomes a UFC powerhouse

Dricus 'Stillknocks' du Plessis continued to make waves for South Africa in the UFC this year, anf he was joined by Cameron Saaiman, known to the broader MMA community as 'The Future' - a nickname coined by Dana White himself.

Middleweight fighter Du Plessis beat Brad Tavares by decision in July, and then Darren Till in round 3 by submission in December. Saaiman, meanwhile, won on his UFC debut in a bantamweight bout against Steven Koslow in Vegas.

Both fighters emerged from the CIT Performance Institute under the mentorship of coach Morné Visser and they look set to drive an unprecedented era of growth for MMA in South Africa.

ESPN Africa Boxing changes the game

Speaking of unprecedented growth, ESPN Africa Boxing has made life significantly more exciting for men's and women's fighters alike across the continent.

Africa Boxing returned in its current form January, with monthly events featuring some of the best fighters in Africa, and a few from Asia as well.

One of the most remarkable stories was the comeback of Mzuvukile 'Old Bones' Magwaca, who had fallen into heavy drinking and despair after a 2018 shooting which threatened to end his career.

Under the guidance of Michael Mouneimne and his Pride Fighting Academy colleagues returned to the ring like he never left with a knockout win over Sanele Maduna at ESPN Africa Boxing.

Three months later, however, he was beaten by unanimous decision by Sabelo Ngebiyana, another standout performer.

Smangele 'Smash' Hadebe shone in the women's bouts, beating Halima Vunjabei and Stumai Muki to end the year as the African Boxing Union flyweight champion. Malawi's Ellen Simwaka was also prolific, winning all four of her Africa Boxing bouts.

ESPN Africa Boxing also gave a platform to talented South African officials, with referee Pumeza Zinakile becoming a notable presence after turning trauma from a fatal incident which she witnessed in the ring in 2014 into motivation to keep control of every bout she is entrusted with.

Lara van Niekerk and Chad le Clos star in the pool

This was a breakthrough year for 19-year-old Lara van Niekerk, who won Commonwealth Games gold medals in the 50 and 100-metre breaststroke. The latter race saw her beat compatriot Tatjana Schoenmaker in a South African one-two.

Among other swimming successes, Chad le Clos enjoyed a revival of sorts after a nightmare 2021. After a Commonwealth Games silver medal in the 200m butterfly, Le Clos won gold in both the 100 and 200-metre butterfly races at the Short Course World Championships.

In total, 11 out of South Africa's 27 Commonwealth Games medals were won in swimming - a sign that all is well in the camp with the 2024 Olympics not too far around the corner.

Modest success in athletics

South Africa's year was not quite as spectacular on the athletics track as it was in the swimming pool. However, there were some bright moments. Notably, Akani Simbine won silver medals in the 100m at the African Championships and Commonwealth Games.

Long-injured Wayde van Niekerk continues to struggle to find his best form despite some valiant efforts. In the 400m at the World Championships in Eugene, he finished fifth with a time of 44.97.

Caster Semenya ran the 5000m at the same championships - her first major international competition since 2017. That was the year before the IAAF controversially announced regulations which would require her to take testosterone-inhibiting medication, should she wish to compete in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m.

At this year's World Championships, she finished 13th in the semi-finals with a time of 15:46.12.

History made in Hockey Nations Cup

South Africa's men's national field hockey team won the inaugural Nations Cup on home soil in Potchefstroom, with Dayaan Cassiem scooping the Best Player award and scoring twice in a 4-3 final win over Ireland.

As the tournament winners, South Africa have been promoted to the 2023/24 Men's FIH Pro League.


This year was an impressive one for Brad Binder, who finished sixth in the world championship with 188 points and three podiums. This was his best season to date and he continues to grow year on year. However, brother Darryn Binder could only manage 24th place in his rookie season, with 12 points.

Other notable moments

Benni McCarthy's appointment as Manchester United striker coach was widely celebrated in South Africa, as the country has had scarce representation in the Premier League and other top leagues since the former frontman's playing days for Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United.

His was not the only major achievement for South African football coaches. Roger de Sá was Carlos Queiroz's assistant for Egypt's run to the Africa Cup of Nations final and subsequently followed him to Iran, where the team turned heads with a valiant effort to qualify for the last 16 in a tough group featuring England, Wales and the USA.

Meanwhile, Pitso Mosimane was appointed head coach of Saudi club Al-Ahli after leaving Egyptian giants Al Ahly.

Bongokuhle Hlongwane became an instant fan favourite for Minnesota United in the MLS after signing from Maritzburg United, while Njabulo Blom's move to St. Louis City from Kaizer Chiefs was confirmed on December 23.

The Stormers made history as they won the inaugural United Rugby Championship (URC), as South African rugby took a major step towards the Northern Hemisphere.

In cricket, the auction took place for the inaugural SA20 tournament, which will start on January 10 2023.

Australian legend Norma Plummer returned as the head coach of the national netball team, with Cape Town set to host the 2023 World Cup.

Perhaps most importantly, fans returned to sporting venues across the country following a lengthy COVID-19 lockdown, injecting some much-needed spirit into a nation which so badly yearned for a boost amid rolling blackouts and trying economic times.

The year 2023 should be one for the books, with rugby, cricket, netball and hockey World Cups, along with ESPN Africa Boxing, the BAL season 3, and plenty more sporting action.