’Tis the year for new be­gin­nings and set­tling old scores

Sports fa­nat­ics around the world will be con­sis­tently en­ter­tained by back-to-back action. The City Press sports team looks at what is in store

CityPress - - Sport -

Can Wayde van Niek­erk be bet­ter?

World cham­pion, Olympic cham­pion, world 400m record holder and world-class hu­man be­ing. Is there a way to top that? Van Niek­erk goes into 2017, a year in which he de­fends his world ti­tle in Lon­don, look­ing to do what looks im­pos­si­ble. Bolt’s last hur­rah: Triple Olympic cham­pion Usain Bolt will bid the world good­bye when he runs his fi­nal race in Lon­don in Au­gust. Bolt has al­ready in­di­cated that the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships would be his fi­nal race. Will he bow out with dig­nity? We will miss his magic on the track.

Will Mur­ray keep the bar­bar­ians at the gate?

The re­cently knighted Brit did the un­think­able last year by dis­plac­ing No­vak Đoković as world num­ber one. In an era dom­i­nated by Roger Fed­erer, Rafael Nadal and Đoković – leg­ends of the game – Mur­ray’s achieve­ment was no mean feat. Con­sid­ered the runt of the so-called Big Four, Mur­ray has lit­er­ally worked his socks off in chas­ing his op­po­nents to the ends of the earth for that rank­ing. But with Đoković re­port­edly hun­gry again, Fed­erer and Nadal in­jury-free again, and a host of up-and-com­ing chasers in­clud­ing Kei Nishikori, Mi­los Raonic, Marin Čilić, Dominic Thiem, Nick Kyr­gios and the pre­co­cious Alexan­der Zverev, can he stay there? Ser­ena Wil­liams on the brink: The first tennis ma­jor starts next week down un­der and all eyes will be on Ser­ena Wil­liams to see if she still has what it takes to con­quer the world.

The world num­ber one showed signs of rusti­ness af­ter a four-month lay­off when she was knocked out of the Auck­land Clas­sic tour­na­ment in the sec­ond round this week. This could be her last year to re­write the his­tory books and sur­pass the leg­endary St­effi Graf, who shares the Open-era record of 22 grand slam ti­tles.

Brad Binder’s steady climb up the mo­tor­cy­cling lad­der:

Af­ter three sea­sons and a dom­i­nant fi­nal year in win­ning the Moto3 cham­pi­onship, the 21-year-old South African con­tin­ues on his steady climb up the lad­der in the hopes of land­ing a Mo­toGP seat one day. Said mis­sion starts with his rid­ing for Ajo Mo­tor­sport in the Moto2 cham­pi­onship this year.

What chance of a record run by Eng­land?

South Africans love ev­ery­thing about the All Blacks be­cause they are ev­ery­thing the Boks aren’t. And the fact that they fi­nally set the record (18 matches) for the most con­sec­u­tive test wins will have the so-called Cape Cru­saders crow­ing. But Eng­land have a chance of break­ing that record. March 18, when Ed­die Jones’s team take on Ire­land in the Six Na­tions, is sud­denly a big-ish date on the in­ter­na­tional cal­en­dar as it would mark Eng­land’s 19th con­sec­u­tive win (18 un­der the Aus­tralian). Of course, the as­sump­tion is that Eng­land would have ne­go­ti­ated their way past a resur­gent France, a com­pet­i­tive Wales, a de­fi­ant Italy and a Scot­tish team play­ing with rare verve. Can Al­lis­ter Coet­zee find his mojo: Af­ter sur­viv­ing the axe fol­low­ing a dis­as­trous start, Spring­boks coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee will be out to make amends this year. Only good re­sults will pro­long his stay at the helm. He has un­til June to get his act to­gether when France visit the coun­try.

Who will join the Lions at the top ta­ble in Su­per Rugby?

In a year which will com­fort­ably go down as one of the worst for Spring­bok rugby, the Lions thank­fully showed the rest of the free world that SA play­ers ac­tu­ally can play rugby by mak­ing the Su­per Rugby fi­nal. The ques­tion is, have they dragged any of their coun­ter­parts in con­tin­u­ing to try and drag SA rugby out of the (play­ing style) dark ages? The Chee­tahs have adopted some­thing ap­proach­ing to­tal rugby in the Cur­rie Cup, but can it work at Su­per Rugby level? The Bulls off­load bet­ter than any­one in SA, but can they of­fer more? The Sharks have also com­mit­ted to run­ning the ball, but is this year’s tour­na­ment too soon? And what shape will the Storm­ers be in af­ter all that (liq­ui­da­tion) drama off the field? A huge year for the Proteas: While their new ap­proach seems to be con­cen­trat­ing on the process of be­ing the best they can be, hope­fully with the aim of win­ning the 2019 World Cup as the end prod­uct, there are a few mark­ers to be laid en route to that peak. This week’s test se­ries win against Sri Lanka will go a long way to­wards putting the third-placed side on re­spectable foot­ing on the rank­ings ta­ble, and the three- and four-test se­ries against New Zealand (March) and Eng­land ( July and Au­gust), re­spec­tively, should put them there or there­abouts in terms of re­gain­ing the world num­ber one spot. June rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to test the ef­fi­cacy of their new ap­proach in tour­na­ment cricket with the ICC Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy in Eng­land and Wales. What chance of fi­nally get­ting that elu­sive ma­jor ICC tro­phy in 2017? Life af­ter Nico Ros­berg: Mercedes will restart life af­ter last year’s Driv­ers Cham­pion Ros­berg who quit the sport a day af­ter win­ning a ti­tle in Abu Dhabi. With­out any more ri­valry in the camp, the spot­light will once again fall on Lewis Hamilton. Will Bafana make it to Rus­sia? Af­ter miss­ing the last edi­tion of the world foot­ball spec­ta­cle in Brazil, Bafana will be look­ing to book their place in Rus­sia. Bafana are on top of their group and stand­ing in their way to glory is Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and Sene­gal later in the sec­ond half of the year. World Cup cur­tain-raiser in Rus­sia: Cristiano Ron­aldo will lead his Por­tu­gal side to the Fifa Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup in Rus­sia in June where six con­ti­nen­tal cham­pi­ons will con­verge in the Fifa World Cup pre­cur­sor. Will Tiger roar again: This could be the year that Tiger Woods makes his re­turn to com­pet­i­tive golf. Af­ter be­ing side­lined by in­jury and loss of form, Tiger is on his way back. Box­ing bo­nanza: Will An­thony Joshua prove to the world that he is the best heavy­weight by up­stag­ing Wladimir Kl­itschko in their much-awaited World Box­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Fed­er­a­tion and In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Or­gan­i­sa­tion heavy­weight ti­tle clash at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium, UK, on April 29?

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