Crunch time: Proteas, Boks and Bafana have big weekend ahead
It's a big sporting weekend for the Proteas, the Springboks and Bafana Bafana. Carl Lewis sticks his neck out and gives us his predictions for the sides in their respective crunch clashes.
CAPE TOWN - It is rare that South African sports fans get to watch all three "big" national teams compete on the same weekend, as the Springboks, Bafana Bafana and the Proteas prepare for a high-stakes matches in their respective sporting calendars.
The mood around South African sport amongst the fans is cynical and rightly so, as there has been nothing to cheer about.
In sport, winning can change perceptions as well as attitudes and it can also mask any cracks that may have appeared before the start of a match and should the teams get positive results this weekend, they could go a long way to reestablishing some confidence in our "big" national teams.
As we nervously await the weekend's fixtures, we will briefly (and optimistically) try predicting results in what is a significant weekend for South African sport.
Springboks v France, First Test, Loftus Versfeld, 17:00, Saturday
The magnitude of a winning start to the Springboks' 2017 Test season cannot be underestimated. With optimism around the Bok camp at an all time low, Allister Coetzee will know that nothing less than a win will please the Bok supporters.
Last season’s loss against a 14-man Irish side in Cape Town set the tone for the rest of the year, which saw the Boks win four of their 12 Tests, including an embarrassing maiden loss to Italy.
While Coetzee bemoaned the lack of preparation time last year, the French players have just come out of a bruising European season and face exactly that issue, which undoubtedly favours the home team.
Despite fielding four uncapped players in the run-on XV, South Africa should be considered favourites against a French side that are missing key players, with the Loftus altitude also playing its part in the latter stages of the match.
Nothing less than a 3-0 whitewash of the visitors is expected from this series and for Allister Coetzee to restore some sort of credibility back into the national team and his tenure.
Prediction: Springboks to edge France by 4 points
Bafana Bafana v Nigeria, 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, 18:00, Saturday
Stuart Baxter will hope that his side hits the ground running in his first assignment as the national team coach as travelling to face a determined Nigeria is about as daunting as they come, despite South Africa holding the edge in terms of recent results.
Baxter’s squad selection has been met with general praise, welcoming back more players who play their club football overseas which is a shift from predecessor Shakes Mashaba’s policy.
Despite only having a limited amount of time to work with his new squad, a positive is that tactically, they will be prepared for Nigeria, having employed a Manchester United scout to gather intelligence on their opponents.
For those who follow Bafana closely, they will be aware that the Bafana squad have the technical quality to live with Nigeria. How South Africa deals with an aggressive and high-octane Super Eagles outfit will be key in the outcome of the match.
Both nations have missed out on the AFCON’s recent editions and will be eager to get back to their previous years of glory.
Prediction: Bafana Bafana to walk away with a 1-1 draw
Proteas v India, ICC Champions Trophy, The Oval, 11:30, Sunday
Here we are again. The Proteas are in a do-or-die match at an ICC tournament and uncertainty surrounding the team is magnified even more.
Playing Sri Lanka and then Pakistan in their tournament openers, you would have backed the Proteas ODI unit to have wrapped up semi-final qualification before playing powerhouse India on Sunday.
However, they slipped up against the enigmatic Pakistan and find themselves in a straight shootout with the well-equipped Indians, who are defending champions from 2013 and have a history of being able to navigate their way through these crunch matches.
A loss against India on Sunday will be another blow to the Proteas' quest to rid themselves of the tiring but true "chokers" tag.
If one was an optimist, you could point to the fact that India (as Sri Lanka indicated) are very beatable, especially in conditions that would historically favour South Africa.
The weather forecast also suggests that rain will not be a factor on Sunday, so at least the infamous foe Duckworth-Lewis probably won’t come back to bite the Proteas.
The form of AB de Villiers is certainly a worry as he, like India skipper Virat Kohli, pride themselves on leading from the front in terms of performances. If ever there was a match to get back into form, it would be on Sunday and I believe he will come good.
Prediction: South Africa to just about beat India