Anxious time for SA sports fans

The nation’s sports lovers face a nail-biting weekend as Bafana Bafana‚ the Springboks and the Proteas all have potentially explosive matches that should banish the expected cold temperatures.

Bafana take on Nigeria in a tricky 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifier in Uyo tomorrow, with coach Stuart Baxter and his men in search of a good start to their qualification campaign.

Baxter and his charges prepared in Johannesburg this week before their trip to Nigeria for the showdown against the old enemy.

The coach knows the team’s record 17-game unbeaten run will face one of its sternest tests tomorrow.

The national side have not tasted defeat since a third-string selection lost 2-0 at home to Angola in an African Nations Championship qualifier in October 2015.

Since then, they have beaten Egypt and Senegal and drawn with African champions Cameroon twice‚ though all but one of those matches were in front of their own fans.

It is the longest current unbeaten streak of any nation in Africa‚ though it should be stated that many of the continent’s top teams have faced much stiffer opposition than Bafana over the last two years.

On the same day, the Springboks are up against the dangerous France at Loftus in Pretoria in the first of three test matches and coach Allister Coetzee‚ who has been under the cosh in the last few months‚ will be desperate for a morale-boosting win.

The Boks arrived in the capital on Sunday following a week-long training camp in Plettenberg Bay which the senior players hailed as a success. Coetzee announced his team to face the French yesterday afternoon and the task of starting to resurrect South African rugby’s fortunes will rest on the shoulders of the coach and his new squad.

The Boks suffered a record eight defeats in their 12 tests last year, including a very first home loss to Ireland and an embarrassing defeat against Italy.

On Sunday‚ the Proteas find themselves in the unenviable position of having to beat favourites India in their last group match of the Champions Trophy at the Oval in London to have any chance of progressing to the semifinals.

South Africa were beaten by 19 runs by Pakistan via the Duckworth-Lewis method at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Wednesday night to leave their chances of progressing to the next round precariously close to the abyss.

They find themselves in a tough spot as not only do they have to beat the Indians‚ but they have to do so handsomely to have a better net run rate, which could come into play because of the result of the match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in Cardiff on Sunday.

“Sunday is a big day for us,” Morne Morkel said.

“It’s going to take a big team effort to knock over India, but we have to back ourselves to win.”

Coach Russell Domingo also weighed in, saying: “We haven’t played good cricket and we’ve got to take that on the chin.

“Pakistan played better than us and it had absolutely nothing to do with complacency as far as I’m concerned.” – Additional reporting by AFP

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