SPORTS DAY: Crunch time looms for Bafana in Tunisia

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SPORTS DAY: Crunch time looms for Bafana in Tunisia

Your roundup of the sporting news of the day

Sports editor


SOCCER
Countdown to Bafana’s biggest week of the year
Bafana Bafana have decided to camp in Tunis for most of their time in Tunisia‚ then spend two days in match venue Sfax before their huge Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Libya their next Sunday. The national team left for Tunisia – where the match will be played owing to the unstable security situation in Libya – on Saturday at 8.40pm‚ flying to Frankfurt‚ Germany‚ where they arrived at 6.15pm. They took a two-hour connecting flight to Tunis at 9am‚ where they will set up camp until Thursday. Coach Stuart Baxter said this was because there was no adequate training facility in Sfax. “We were looking at all sorts of ways of solving the logistical problems‚” he said. “We were looking at a charter flight‚ but that could have had all sorts of problems. One‚ the charter would have had to stop to refuel and there might have been huge delays. Two was getting into Sfax and then not having adequate training facilities.”
RUGBY
Reject bigotry, All Blacks captain urges
All Blacks captain Kieran Read has urged New Zealanders to reject bigotry and support the country’s Muslim community after a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch on Friday. The death toll from the shooting, carried out by a suspected white supremacist, rose to 50 on Sunday. Read, who was caught up in the city centre lockdown at his daughters’ school on Friday as police searched for the gunman, expressed his support for the victims, their families and all of New Zealand’s small Muslim community. “That this hate-filled atrocity has happened in our back yard is beyond words,” Read wrote on Instagram. “My heart goes out to the victims and their families, our Muslim community and the people of Christchurch.
“Our nation is experiencing a great loss of innocence in the face of all that happened. Bigotry and intolerance has no place here in Aotearoa (New Zealand). This is not who we are.”
CRICKET
SA pin World Cup hopes on bowlers
SA finished their one-day series against Sri Lanka with a clear idea of both the team and the tactics they will use in the upcoming Cricket World Cup. Sri Lanka, after their fourth 5-0 series defeat in less than two years, appeared to be in disarray. SA captain Faf du Plessis said after the fifth match on Saturday night that he was “98 to 99%” sure who would go to England. The “1 or 2%” was to allow for “guys who are really red hot or striking good form”. Sri Lankan captain Lasith Malinga said form in a forthcoming domestic tournament would be important, while he expected experienced players like Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal, who did not play in SA, to be in contention. Du Plessis indicated SA were pinning their hopes on a potent bowling line-up to win matches, even if meant the team might have a lengthy tail.
CRICKET
Amla to miss T20s against Sri Lanka
Hashim Amla will miss the last competitive matches SA will play before the World Cup. The stalwart batter’s father is gravely ill‚ and on Sunday he was left out of both squads named for the three T20s against Sri Lanka this week – SA’s last matches before they meet the Lankans again in a World Cup warm-up game in Cardiff on March 24. Amla didn’t play in the five one-day internationals the teams contested in the past two weeks‚ but he scored 108 not out and 59 in five ODIs against Pakistan last month. Theoretically he could play in the Cobras’ remaining two one-day matches‚ and in two more if they reach the final. Amla‚ who last played for SA in the third Test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park in February and has since had a one-day outing for the Cobras‚ could also hone his game in next month’s franchise T20 tournament.
FORMULA ONE
Fastest lap point helps Bottas make history
Valtteri Bottas won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix for Mercedes with the fastest lap on Sunday and in the process achieved a Formula One first. The Finn was the first driver since the 1950s to win a point for the fastest lap, under a new rule introduced in 2019, and also the only one yet to score more than 25 points in a race on more than one occasion. The only other race in which drivers have been able to score more than the maximum allocated for a victory was the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when double points were handed out for the first and only time. Bottas finished third in that race at Yas Marina for Williams, behind winner Lewis Hamilton and now-retired Brazilian Felipe Massa, and banked 30 points. On Sunday he scored 26. A point for fastest lap was awarded between 1950 and 1959 but in those days a win was worth only eight points.
BOXING
Lerena lives up to his own hype
Boxers often make extravagant promises as soon as they come within 100m of a microphone but many of them fail to live up to their own hype after they’ve stepped into the ring. IBO cruiserweight champion Kevin “Two Guns” Lerena predicted ahead of his fight against Artur “Thunderman” Mann that he would stop the challenger by knockout at Emperors Palace on Saturday night. And the 26-year-old local fighter did exactly as he promised when he demolished the German-based Kazakhstani in four rounds in front of a big crowd in the Golden Gloves event dubbed “No Mercy” that had seven international cards. Lerena produced arguably the best performance of his career on Saturday after training for the fight as if his life depended on the belt he was defending.
RUGBY
‘I lost it‚’ says Lions coach after hairdryer treatment
With his side staring down the barrel‚ Swys de Bruin reluctantly reached for the blowtorch at half time. His fiery rage did the trick as the Lions recorded one of Super Rugby’s more memorable come-from-behind wins over the Melbourne Rebels at Ellis Park on Saturday. His side had gone into the sheds 26-5 down before matters were compounded moments after the resumption when the Rebels stretched their advantage to 33-5. “I lost it‚” De Bruin admitted afterwards. “There were one or two words that came out badly. Sorry about that‚” he said while learning over to the Lions’ sheepish looking captain, Malcolm Marx. “But maybe it was time to lay the marker down once and for all. I don’t think I’ve lost it like this before. I know how good these guys can be and they were not‚” said De Bruin about a desperately poor first half. The Lions scored 28 unanswered points before the result was balanced on the penalty attempt of young Gianni Lombard after the final siren.
CRICKET
Smith, Warner return after ball-tampering row
Disgraced Australian stars Steve Smith and David Warner joined their Indian Premier League teams Sunday after missing out on the previous edition of the Twenty20 tournament over a ball-tampering controversy. Both were barred from playing in the lucrative league in 2018 after their involvement in the scandal. The duo, who are serving one-year international bans that end later this month, recently joined the Australian team in Dubai as part of their reintegration after the scandal in SA. Both players, who are also returning from elbow injuries, would be eligible for part of the upcoming ODI series against Pakistan, but selectors decided it would be better to ease themselves back into form at the IPL.
BOXING
Spence overpowers Garcia to retain title
Errol Spence jr solidified his status as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world with a 12-round masterclass performance over challenger Mikey Garcia on Saturday. The 29-year-old Spence easily beat Garcia by a unanimous decision to retain his International Boxing Federation title in a welterweight homecoming bout in front of 47,500 fans. Spence dominated Garcia throughout with a stinging jab and a barrage of combinations and his hometown crowd at the AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas cheered wildly as he used his size and reach advantage to put on a boxing clinic. “My motivation was fighting in front of my hometown crowd,” Spence said. “This is where I started it from a pup. From the amateurs all the way up.”
RUGBY
Bring on World Cup! Wales believe after Grand Slam
Wales were hailed on Sunday for the energy, drive and belief that powered them to the Six Nations Grand Slam, with legendary fly-half Barry John saying the World Cup could not come around quick enough. The Welsh thumped Ireland 25-7 at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday to follow victories over France (24-19), Italy (26-15), England (21-13) and Scotland (18-11). It was also a 14th consecutive win, based around an iron-clad, swarming defence and an ever-strengthening squad coach Warren Gatland has forged around talismanic captain Alun Wyn Jones. “You can see the camaraderie that Gatland and Alun Wyn have built so superbly,” ex-Wales and British and Irish Lions icon John said in his “Wales on Sunday” column. “It’s resulted in the Grand Slam. Bring on the World Cup.” Wales “are getting more and more confident and need fear nobody out in Japan”, where the World Cup runs from September 20 until November 2.
– AFP, Reuters and TimesLIVE

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