Sport Calendar 2015

Sport rollercoaster year ahead

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A rollercoaster of a sport year awaits South African fans in a multitude of international sporting code events, guaranteed to deliver some distraction from the more serious stuff – not that they are not very serious about their sport.

The West Indian cricketers are still on our shores. But the next phase of their tour, the three T20 games starting in three days’ time on 9 January, already carries signs that administrators’ and players’ minds are shifting towards next month’s World Cup (WC).

Several senior players in the Proteas squad, including Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel are given a break. Selection convener Andrew Hudson said it would be the last opportunity to give them a rest before the five-match one-day international (ODI) series against the West Indies, followed by the WC.

The opportunity is also being used to give two possible key WC players, JP Duminy and Aaron Phangiso, the chance to show they have fully recovered from injury.

African Cup of Nations

But even before the West Indian cricketers depart for home in about ten days’ time, on 17 January much attention will shift to Equatorial Guinea where Africa’s premier football event, the Africa Cup of Nations (ACN), will kick off.

The tournament starts on that day with a match between the host nation and Congo and one between Gabon and Burkina Faso.

South Africa’s own Bafana Bafana will become part of the ACN action two days later when they meet Algeria in the Estadio de Mongomo.

The final of the 33-match tournament will be played on Sunday 8 February in the Estadio de Bata. (To view the full schedule of matches, click on pdf-file ar bottom of article.)

In-between, sport fans will also be able to watch the cricket OIDs between the West Indian and the Proteas this month on 16 (Durban), 18 (Johannesburg), 21 (East London), 25 (Port Elizabeth) and 28 January (Centurion). On January 19 the Australian Open tennis tournament also starts.

Congested February

Even before the ACN finishes on 8 February, that month becomes seriously congested for the dedicated sport fan.

On the 2nd of the month the FNB Ruby Varsity Shield kicks off with a match between UWC and UKZN. Four days later on 6 February the HSBC Sevens World Series tournament in Wellington, New Zealand gets going with South Africa playing against France.

Another four days later on 10 February the ABSA Premiership Soccer League (PSL) programme for 2015 kicks off with three matches: University of Pretoria vs. Chippa United in the Tuks Stadium; Mamelodi Sundowns vs. Moroka Swallows in the Lucas Maripe Stadium; and Maritzburg United against Bidwest Wits in the Harry Gwala Stadium. All matches start at 19.30. (To view the full schedule of matches, click on pdf-file ar bottom of article)

And a further three days on, 13 February sees the Super Rugby tournament kick-off,
with the Crusaders playing the Rebels in Christchurch, the Brumbies against the
Reds in Canberra and the Lions against the Hurricanes at Ellis Park. (To view the full schedule of matches, click on pdf-file ar bottom of article)

Now it becomes time to hang onto your hair. The very next day, on 14 February, the
Cricket World Cup kicks off in Australia and New Zealand with England vs. Australia
in a Pool A match in Melbourne. (To view the full schedule of matches, click on pdf-file ar bottom of article)

On the very same day the Super Rugby championships see the Blues vs. the Chiefs at North Harbour, the Sharks vs. the Cheetahs at Kings Park and the Bulls vs. the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld. And the next day the Waratahs play the Force in Sydney in the last match of Super Rugby’s first round.

Some more spice

With Super Rugby and the FNB Varsity Shield now in full swing, some additional spice is added to the sport menu during March.

On 5 March Bafana Bafana will host a friendly international football match against Brazil in the 94 000-seat FNB Stadium in Soweto.

On March 8 more than 40 000 cyclists are expected to take part in the Cape Town Cycle Tour.

A week later, on 15 March, arguably the world’s toughest and most widely covered mountain biking event, the ABSA Cape Epic starts. The riders will cover more than 700 km of rugged Western Cape terrain in a serious test of endurance. The tour finishes in Somerset West on 22 March.

Over the weekend of 7/8 March the world’s largest open-water swimming event, the Midmar Mile in KwaZulu-Natal will also take place.

Over the weekend of 13 to 15 March the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne gets the year’s excitement going for motor racing fans with the first of the year’s planned expanded programme of 21 Grand Prix races. (The full provisional schedule viewed here)

Early in April the first of the year’s important long distance running events takes place with the Two Oceans Marathon in Cape Town scheduled for 4 April. And with spring arriving in the northern hemisphere, the US Master Golf tournament starts at Augusta on the 6th.

On the 8th of May through to the 24th, cricket fans can add the Indian Premier League to their viewing schedule. The 24th is also the day the French Open tennis tournament starts in Paris, lasting until 7 June.

For those who like a really long run, the Comrades Marathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the world’s largest ultramarathon stretching over approximately 90 km, takes place on the last day of May. Dating back to 1921, the marathon will celebrate its centennial in six years’ time.

In June an attraction gets added for rugby fans when the Junior World Championships for under-20s kicks off in Italy on the 2nd, lasting until 20 June.

In-between, golf fans can watch the US Open which starts on 8 June at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington.

For tennis fans the Wimbledon Tennis tournament takes place between 29 June and 12 July in London, England.

On the first of July the Proteas Cricket starts with their July/August tour of Bangladesh, which includes two test matches, three ODI matches and one T20 match.

On July 16 the British open golf tournament starts at St Andrews in Scotland, while the Castle Rugby Championship (CRC) between South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina kicks off the next day.

In the first round of the CRC SA plays Australia, and New Zealand tackles Argentina. The tournament has been condensed to only three rounds due to the Rugby World Cup (RWC) starting in September and ending on 8 August.

With South African swimmers having done particularly well in the international arena over recent years, there should also be much interest in the World Swimming Championship at Kazan in Russia, starting on 24 July.

Quiet before the storm

Before the storm of September’s RWC and more hit sport fans, August is relatively quiet. But the World Netball Championship starts in Sydney, Australia on 7 August and lasts until the 16th.

On the 13th of August the US PGA golf tournament starts at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, and on the 15th the Springboks might play Argentina in warm-up game for the RWC.

Between 22 and 30 August the World Athletics Championship takes place in Beijing, China. It is an important occasion for athletes aspiring to qualify for 2016 Olympic Games.

Shifting attention

Although September will see cricket’s Champions League T20 tournament of 23 Matches, most South African fans will be shifting their attention to the RWC, which kicks off on the 18th in England and will last till 31 October.

The tournament’s opening match will be on the 18th between the host nation and Fiji at Twickenham in London.

South Africa will be in action for the first time on the next day, Saturday the 19th, in a Pool B match against Japan in Brighton and meet Samoa the next Saturday the 26th in Birmingham.

Arguably the Springboks’ first real test will come the next Saturday, the 3rd of October when Scotland will be waiting for them at St James Park, Newcastle on Tyne after playing the USA four days later on the Wednesday in London in the Olympic Stadium.

Ten days later, on Saturday the 17th of October, the knock-out stage begins with the first quarter finals at Twickenham and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The two semi finals are played the next weekend with the tournament of 48 games in total ends on the last day of October, Saturday the 31st, with the final being played at Twickenham. (To view the full schedule of matches, click on pdf-file ar bottom of article)

Tide-over

To tide South African sports fans over, the Proteas will start with a tour to India that will last into December. Their programme includes three test matches, seven ODIs and two T20 matches.

By December England’s cricketers will arrive in South Africa for a tour lasting into February 2016, consisting of four tests, five ODIs and two T20 matches.

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by Piet Coetzer

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