Sport in an INCEtant!
Sport in an INCEtant!
Published Date: 2018-03-29 | Source: Sport | Author: Steven Theunissen
The last week of sporting action will largely be remembered for a highly controversial encounter between the Proteas and Australia which has undoubtedly left a bitter taste in the mouths of all who have heard the news or seen the footage. Nonetheless, there were many other great match-ups, on which I'll give my two cents worth below:
With the Super Rugby season now in full-swing, some teams are posing themselves as serious title contenders, while others seem to be falling into an all-too-familiar position chasing the rest of the pack. The New Zealand Conference is once again showing the vast depth of talent available at all 5 franchises, with all of them demonstrating a hunger for victory this year. The Highlanders suffered their first loss of the season when they went down to the Hurricanes in Wellington.
From a local perspective, the Stormers were able to build some momentum, registering their third win of the season when they faced off against the Reds at Newlands on Saturday afternoon. The Cape Town side went into the halftime break with a lead of eleven points, however, a strong second half performance from the Reds saw the Stormers walk away with a 25-19 win. That was the Stormers' second win in a row after comprehensively dismissing the Blues in the previous week, and the Cape side will hope to register a third successive win when they face off against the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday.
The Bulls were away to the Crusaders, and many were hoping the Bulls would build on their strong performance against the Chiefs last week. However, the defending champions were too good for the Pretoria side and walked away 33-14 victors.
Both the Sharks and the Lions were disappointing away from home with few positives to be taken from either sides' performances. The Sharks were thumped by the surprise package of the season in the Melbourne Rebels, who find themselves on top of the overall log after 5 games...the question everyone wants to know is whether the Melbourne side will be able to keep it up. Early signs indicate that they may well progress to the later stages of the tournament. The Lions went down to a Jaguares side who have showed signs of sheer brilliance thus far this season coupled with moments that have left plenty to be desired. The Lions had previously beaten the Argentinian based outfit in Johannesburg in the early rounds of the competition, but failed to repeat their successes away from home. The Lions will need to turn their season around with great hast if they aim to replicate their runner-up performance in the competition last year. Plenty of work needs to be done by coach, Swys de Bruin and his squad.
In other rugby events around the World, the Southern Kings came desperately close, but suffered a heart-breaking 36-35 against Italian side, Treviso. Having only recognised one win thus far in the Pro 14, the Kings will be desperately trying to turn their misfortunes around in the remaining games. The Cheetahs were impressive in their win away from when they took on the Newport Dragons in Wales. The Cheetahs continue to put up a real fight as potential playoff contenders, and the next few weeks will be pivotal in determining the outcome of their first season in the Pro 14.
The Varsity Cup has reached the semi-final stages and will see Wits away to Stellenbosch, and UJ away to Pukke in Potch. Both games will be hotly contested match-ups, with the Wits side looking to further build on an impressive season, having reached the semi-final stage of the completion for the first time.
Supporters of the "Gentleman's Game" were left speechless on Saturday afternoon when it became apparent that the Australian side were tampering with the ball in order to generate a greater degree of reverse swing. The footage of the now infamous, Cameron Bancroft, placing a piece of tape used to deface the ball into his trousers caused both anger and heartbreak from global cricketing fans. The result of this was that much of the focus shifted from the cricket being played, however, the Proteas were able to show a great deal of mental strength in completing the job at hand. A gutsy first innings hundred from opener, Dean Elgar, gave the Proteas a solid base from which to attack in the first innings. The Australians seemed to be down and out in their response, however a gutsy performance from the lower order saw the Australians fall 56 runs shy of the Proteas' first innings total.
From then on, the Proteas were in complete control of the match. A strong batting display from Aiden Markram, AB De Villiers and Quinton De Kock saw the Proteas setting the Australians what would be a record beating target of 429 to win. However, an Australian side that was clearly rocked by the controversy in which they were involved, were unable to mount a serious threat to the Proteas' target. A brilliant bowling display ensued, with particular praise given to Morne Morkel competing in his second last test match of an illustrious career, which saw him taking his 300th test wicket and returning match figures of 110-9.
The final test match gets underway at the Bull Ring on Friday, which will see an Australian side without Captain Steve Smith, Vice-Captain David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, all of whom have been sent home by Cricket Australia. Cricketing fans are hoping that the final battle between two of the World's most competitive sides will be played in great spirits, moving on from the controversy surrounding the series thus far.
The last two weeks of football saw Champions League, Premier League as well as FA Cup matches played across Europe. Barcelona was able to ease past Chelsea 3-0 and progress to the Quarter Finals.
Other sides to progress to the last eight were Sevilla, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Real Madrid, Roma, Liverpool and Manchester City. For Premier League supporters, the pick of the last eight encounters will undoubtedly be the clash between Liverpool and Man City, with the first leg to be played on 4 April at Anfield. This promises to be a heated encounter with both sides able to score from anywhere - definitely an evening to keep free in your diary!
From the Premier League, it was business as usual for runaway leaders Manchester City who eased past Stoke City 2-0 away from home, further extending their lead over rivals Manchester United. With just 8 games to play, City find themselves 16 points clear with what can only be described as a chokehold on the Premier League Trophy.
The FA Cup Quarter Finals were concluded two weeks ago, with wins for Southampton, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea, who were taken to extra time against Leicester.
In the PSL, a win for Orlando Pirates against Golden Arrows allowed the Buccaneers to narrow the gap atop the leaderboard, with Mamelodi Sundowns just one point clear, but with a game in hand. In other results, Kaiser Chiefs were held to a 0-0 draw which sees the Soweto side in 5th position on the log, 7 points behind the leaders.
This week saw the World's best swingers battle it out at the Dell Match Play in Austin, Texas. The highly competitive Matchplay format saw South Africans Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Dylan Frittelli competing. However, it was not to be for the South Africans, and the final match-up of the week saw the Americans Bubba Watson and Kevin Kisner battling it out on Sunday afternoon. Watson was too strong for Kisner, thrashing his compatriot 7&6 in a breath-taking performance from the emotional American, who afterwards admitted that he had considered retiring from golf after a spell of disappointing performances. It's great to see him back!
The ATP and WTA find themselves battling it out in Miami. The tournament was rocked by the shock exit of the Swiss great, Roger Federer who lost on Saturday to World number 175, Thanasi Kokkinakis. The tournament will reach its climax over the weekend. Plenty of big names are still in action and you can see them all every evening this week.
This weekend saw the return of the Formula One season at Albert Park in Melbourne. Hamilton proved too strong in qualifying, continuing his dominance from last year by qualifying on pole for Sunday's race. However, a surprisingly strong performance from Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel saw the Italian manufacturer claiming the first victory of the 2018 season. F1 fanatics will be hoping that this season sees a much closer battle between the top teams, with Mercedes looking to add a fifth successive title to their already impressive trophy cabinet.
What to watch this week
Undoubtedly, one of the major attractions in the week to come, will be the highly anticipated final test between the Proteas and Australia. The match gets underway at 10h00 on Friday and is expected to be yet another epic battle between the two sides, with the Proteas aiming to win, thus taking a 3-1 series victory. All the best to the boys!
Super Rugby rumbles on to the next round, with my pick of the week being the local derby between the Bulls and the Stormers at Loftus. It will see flyhalves Handre Pollard and Damian Willemse battle it out in an attempt to gain ascendancy. Kick-off is 17:15 on Saturday and it's a great opportunity to get the braai going and witness a titanic battle!
There were many moments of brilliance on the sporting field over the past week, my must-see-moment has to be shared between Morne Morkel's 300th test wicket and Dean Elgar's first innings display, where he remained at the crease not out after all 10 South African wickets had fallen. Two match winning performances that we hope to see again at the Wanderers.
That's all from me, enjoy your action-packed week ahead!