Top Ten 2023 Moments in South African Sports
Written by Neo Molefi on December 28, 2023
Written by: Karabo Peter
Image by: Connect Everything Collective
As the rest of the world counts down to 2024, VOW FM Sports counts down the top 10 moments to cap off what has been a historic year in South African sports.
The past year has been filled with various World Cups, South African teams breaking records on the global stage and overall massive improvements in women’s sports.
Springboks Women Defend African Crown
South Africa’s superior physicality was the key role in securing the Rugby Africa Women’s Cup Division 1 2023 title with a 79-8 victory against the hosts, Madagascar in May. The victory secured their place in the WXV 2, which is one of the newly launched three-tier annual global women’s international 15s competition. The Springboks later competed in the WXV 2, finishing off with a bonus point victory over Samoa in Cape Town and booked their place in the competition next year.
Donald Ramphadi: South Africa Claims Roland Garros Title Since 1981
Wheelchair tennis ace, Doanld Ramphadi rewrote history on the 8th of June as he became the first South African to win the Roland Garros title since 1981. Ramphadi and his doubles partner, Andy Lapthrone defeated Heath Davidson and Robert Shaw to claim the Quad Wheelchair Doubles title 1-6, 6-2, 10-3. The leading South African quad wheelchair tennis player’s victory progressed him from number nine to four in the world rankings. However, he currently lies fifth after falling out in the US Open.
Banyana Banyana Qualify for the Last 16 for the First Time
South Africa qualified for the last-16 of the 2023 Women’s World Cup for the first time after defeating Italy 3-2 in a Group G encounter. Despite the Tsakane Stadium fiasco prior to the teams’ departure, the African Champions still managed to put the drama aside and focus on the task at hand to become the first South African squad to make it in the FIFA World Cup knockout stages. Their qualification means South Africa became the third African country to qualify for the knockouts after Nigeria and Cameroon. The victory was not only about South Africa’s qualification, but it registered their first ever win in Women’s World Cup history.
Mamelodi Sundowns Win Africa’s New Super League
After being denied a win in the CAF Champions League semi-finals against Wydad Casablanca earlier this year, DSTV Premiership champions, Mamelodi Sundowns were set to make amends after beating Wydad in the inaugural African Football League final. The Brazilians won 2-0 in the second leg of the final, giving them a 3-2 win on aggregate. It might have not been the Champions League, but they did prove themselves, edging past the likes of Petro de Luanda, Al Ahly and Wydad.
Netball World Cup held on African Soil
Despite the SPAR Proteas missing out on lifting the Netball World Cup, it is worth celebrating that African teams got the opportunity to play on African soil for the first time. The Mother City welcomed 15 nations (South Africa being the 16th) on South African shores to showcase netball at its optimal level. The Cape Town International Convention Centre was where all the action took place. It was unfortunate that the hosts fell to a narrow 49-47 loss to Uganda and finishing the tournament in 6th position. As the host city, Cape Town reaped benefits from direct economic impact and job creation during and after the event, proving to be arguably the country’s events capital.
Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies Reclaim Continental Glory
Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies reclaimed the CAF Women’s Champions League title they relinquished last year. The South Africans impressive win was their second in three years and set a record of lifting the title without conceding a single goal enroute to their victory. The win was achieved at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo through Tholakele Refilwe’s brace and Biotumelo Rabale’s strike, crowning the champions with a 3-0 victory over Morocco’s SC Casablanca.
The Introduction of Betway SA20
The first edition of the Betway SA20 was an astonishing success. A game changer that attracted huge crowds and a high fan engagement on the respective teams’ social media pages. The league is South Africa’s premier T20 cricket league which started in January. The competition features six franchises which operate out of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Gqeberha, Paarl and Cape Town. All the six teams are owned by IPL franchises and operates similarly to the IPL. The inaugural competition which came to an end with a final between the Pretoria Capitals and the Sunrisers Eastern Cape was able to cram 33 matches into 32 days and as the countdown begins for the second edition, it promises to be nothing but another thrilling month of entertainment.
Momentum Proteas Reach ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Finals
The success of the Proteas Women at the T20 World Cup has shown the enormous strides that women’s cricket has taken in South Africa. Cricket South Africa hosted the eighth edition of the tournament. They may have not won, but history was made by being the first South African cricket team (both for men and women) to make it in their first ever final of a Cricket World Cup in any format. This came after the Proteas beat England by six runs in a thrilling semi-final. Tazmin Brits was named Player of the Match after striking a half-century and four stunning catches in the field.
Dricus du Plessis: “Hulle Weet Nie Wat Ons Weet Nie”
“Hulle weet nie wat ons weet nie”- was a phrase that was coined by South Africa’s UFC athlete, Dricus du Plessis after he overcame former Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 290 earlier this year. The line took social media by a storm as South African fans and world-class athletes, including the Springboks, used the phrase to celebrate their success in the Rugby World Cup. Now, Du Plessis is set to face current champion Sean Strickland for the 185-pound UFC title on January 20 at UFC 297 in Toronto. He does so remaining unbeaten in the most popular and competitive MMA organisation.
Springboks Crowned World Champions for the Fourth Time
Thanks to the Springboks, South Africans did not have to worry about loadshedding for almost two months. South Africa made history on the global stage, becoming the first nation to win four titles in Rugby World Cup history. Before their historic 12-11 victory over New Zealand in the final, the World Champions won their quarter-final and semi-final with narrow one-point victories. Jacques Nienaber and his men had to overcome a lot of criticism, one being the introduction of the game-changing 7-1 forwards- backs split bench. More raised eyebrows after Rassie Erasmus flashed signals with an orange light during the Springboks’ 18-3 Pool B win against Scotland at Stade Velodrome in Marseille. Although coach Nienaber did explain they used it for more effective communication, some questioned the legality. One cannot forget the accusations faced by Bongi Mbonambi after England flanker, Tom Curry alleged that the Springbok hooker called him by a racial slur. However, nobody else was there besides the two players, therefore the investigation was dropped by World Rugby due to lack of evidence. The incident became a running joke that brought South Africans together to explain that this was a misunderstanding of language barrier. South African patriotism was revealed once again after Wayne Barnes blew the final whistle, having South African fans flood the streets of Mzansi to celebrate defending their title.