If our top three sporting codes had to battle it out for the best team in SA, the Springboks, without a shadow of doubt would grab that gold medal and leave Bafana Bafana to battle it out with the Proteas for silver.
Not one, but two world cup winning medals are proudly in the Springbok trophy cabinet, the first one united a nation in 1995 on home soil, and if we thought it was all thanks to the “Madiba Magic” in 2007, former president Thabo Mbeki also lifted the Webb Elis Cup. The mother of all upsets in world rugby happened at the 2015 RWC, when the Springboks lost to Japan 34 – 32. But that is still is not enough for Bafana Bafana and The Proteas to even have a sniff at this particular gold medal.
Cricket enthusiasts are probably going to skin me alive for comparing the 1996 Africa Cup Of Nations champions with the 1998 ICC Champions Trophy winners. But unfortunately, those are the only major accolades for both parties.
The Proteas are ranked the best ODI team in the world, and have bowlers and batsmen who are among the top ten in world cricket. Cricket South Africa would state this case in order to settle for second best behind the Boks, but what do they have to show for being the best? The “C” word still lingers when a major ICC tournament is up for grabs. Expectations are very high for them and most of the time they enter a tournament as favourites but somewhere somehow, they touchdown at OR Thambo International airport without a hero’s welcome.
Bafana Bafana scored the very first goal scored in a world cup hosted on African soil – in what was a dream start for the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosts, although that dream didn’t go beyond the group stages. The 64th ranked team in the latest FIFA rankings and 13th in Africa, there’s not much, if any expectations for them to ever compete for FIFA accolades. A home and away win against 114th ranked Cape Verde was expected in order to have a smooth road to qualifying for next years world cup in Russia but Bafana choked on both occasions, losing 2–1 in both legs.
If it was up to me, the exhibition match between the Springboks and the Proteas would be between Bafana Bafana vs Proteas. Two different sporting codes that have one thing in common, emotional drainage. There’s no reason why the Proteas can’t win an ICC tournament and there’s no reason for Bafana to not qualify for football’s biggest prize, yet, here we are, looking like we’ll be supporting BaGhana BaGhana in Russia next year.