Archive for the ‘rugby union’ Category

Big Test for South Africa

As 2009 begins, South African sport is looking in better shape than ever before, 18 months ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup . In the last days of 2008 the South African cricket team achieved their first ever test series victory over Australia away from home. It was a considerable achievement because Australia had not lost a series on home soil for 17 years. Even TIME Magazine noticed and the news made the front page of the Melbourne Sun and other Australian media, who paid generous tributes to the South African team.

In June and July this year the South Africa rugby union team (the reigning world champions) will host the British and Irish Lions rugby tour, which is likely to attract tens of thousands of fans from the UK and Ireland. At the same time the FIFA Confederations Cup will also take place in South Africa, involving eight national teams from around the world. It serves as a vital test of venues and systems a year before the FIFA World Cup.

In contrast to the success of the rugby and cricket teams, the South African football team, known as Bafana Bafana, is currently languishing in 75th place in the world rankings. No doubt the football authorities in South Africa will be urgently looking for improvements in the coming months.

It was only in 1992 that South Africa was readmitted to international sport after the end of the Apartheid era. The country still faces huge challenges and sport is frequently entangled in racial politics (for example racial quotas and the badges on the South African rugby team jersey).

In a country with such a strong sporting culture, the successful hosting of sports events over the next 18 months could provide a stimulus for further economic and social progress. But the biggest boost of all would come if the South African football team could sneak through to the knock-out stages of the World Cup. The pressure is on for Bafana Bafana.