There is so much to look forward to in 2015 in terms of sport. Several high-profile world cups and two major continental football championships as well as at least two exciting boxing bouts are on the cards in among the regular annual events. Here is a quick look through the calendar to draw up a rough list of what you should not miss out on.
The year revs into action on the 4th of January with the Dakar Rally. Last year saw South Africa’s Giniel De Villiers finish in a disappointing fourth position but the 2009 winner is hoping to not only return to the podium this time around, but take his Toyota Hilux all the way to the overall trophy. Look out for South Africans in all categories this year in South America.
Africa Cup of Nations
The 17th of January sees the start of the Africa Cup of Nations. South Africans have every right to feel excited this time around as Bafana Bafana have qualified for the tournament for the first time since 2008 and there has been something of a revival under Shakes Mashaba. Someone complained about Nigeria not being present, well 13 of the continent’s top 16-ranked sides will be in Equatorial Guinea so you know the tournament will be keenly contested. Moreover this could be quite an open competition with no clear cut favourite.
Grand Slam Tennis
January means the first tennis Major of the year; the Australian Open. Last year Stanislas Wawrinka might have started the fall of the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic era but Rafa will be back after a long injury lay-off, Nole will want his Aussie Open title back, Roger was looking as hungry as ever towards the end of 2014 and why would Wawrinka just surrender his title? On the women’s front look out for Serena Williams who is moving higher and higher up the overall Majors honours list, where she is currently tied for fourth.
Cricket World Cup
You might have a preconceived thought about the 14th of February. Yes, that’s quite right. As a sports fan you know that is the day the 2015 Cricket World Cup starts in New Zealand and Australia. There will be no love lost between the world’s top sides and the two biggest questions will be in relation to vengeance. Can Australia redeem themselves after failing to reach the semi-finals in 1992 when they also co-hosted with the Kiwis? And can South Africa finally come good at a major ICC event?
F1 World Championship
Sadly for petrol heads 2014 was not the most glamorous of years. Mercedes dominated the year and the only contest fans could really follow was that between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Hamilton emerged victorious but both drivers will have more competition in 2015 and the new Formula One season starts in Australia on 15 March.
Liebenberg vs Oosthuizen
It’s arguably the biggest boxing bout that could take place on the local front and the date is set for 21 March. Ryno Liebenberg is a man who has gone from being a fighter who relied almost exclusively on his heart to get him through, to perhaps the most improved pugilist in the country over the last few years. Yes, Colin Nathan had something to do with that. Thomas Oosthuizen is at a crossroads. He started out as a light heavyweight, dropped to super middle, then dropped off the radar due largely to personal problems. Now back at light heavy, this fight will largely determine the future of both men’s careers. Does Oosthuizen go on to fulfil his potential and end Liebenberg’s career, or does the 30-year old Liebenberg, fresh from a maiden career loss, take the honours and force Oosthuizen to consider a chance in occupation?
Mchunu vs Makabu
If Liebenberg-Oosthuizen is South Africa’s super fight for the first half of 2015, then Thabiso Mchunu vs Ilunga Makabu must be Africa’s Big Bout of the year. Both are power punchers and the WBC has ordered this cruiserweight eliminator bout with the winner earning a shot at Grigory Drozd. Makabu would have been the favourite against The Rock a few years ago, but Mchunu has gained vital experience fighting successfully in the United States over the last 18 months and the only guarantee, is that this is going to be one fight you do not want to miss. The fight is set for 21 March in Moscow.
US Masters: Can Rory do it?
Rory McIlroy helped himself to two more Majors in 2014 to double his overall tally. Tiger Woods is back but is he really? The shift in focus has cast the magnifying glass on the Northern Irishman who at the tender age of 25 needs just one more Major to complete a career Grand Slam. The missing piece in the puzzle is the US Masters and it also happens to be the first Major of the year. The action at Augusta swings into action on 9 April.n
Culmination of English Premier League, Absa Premiership
As matters stand it appears no one can stop Kaizer Chiefs from lifting the Absa Premiership. But that was also what they were saying at a similar stage last year and we all know what happened there. In England it looks like a two-horse race between Manchester City and Chelsea. And you just know there will be several twists and turns along the way.
Argentina reached the FIFA World Cup final but missed out. Brazil will want to redeem themselves after that semi-final annihilation to Brazil and Dunga’s side have already shown signs of improvement. Colombia were arguably the best South American side at the World Cup and Chile will want to lift the trophy for the first time ever, particularly fancying their chances on home soil. All in all it makes for an exciting 2015 Copa America starting on 11 June.
Swimming World Championship
We all saw how Chad Le Clos dominated at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and then again cleaned up at the short course World Championship. Le Clos will look to lay down a marker in Kazan with just one year still to go before the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, where he is largely expected to shine. The event starts on 24 July.
Netball World Cup
Australia, New Zealand and England will be the usual suspects but South Africa’s Proteas are on the rise and will be looking to cause an upset or two along the way. The South Africans will firstly look to cement their place as the top African side ahead of Malawi, and then set their sights on upsetting one of the big names in Sydney come 7 August.
World Athletics Championships
Another big one to look out for just one year out from the Olympic Games is the IAAF World Championships taking place in Beijing from 22 August. Track and field athletes will be looking to strike an early psychological blow against their rivals, while others will try out something they have been working on perhaps for one last time before deciding on a final strategy for Rio.
Rugby World Cup
The tournament that New Zealand believes is theirs to lose. The All Blacks have been like an unstoppable machine over the last few years with only South Africa and England able to secure the odd win against the Kiwis. Yes, the tournament in England should be New Zealand’s to lose but we all know that once the knockout stages come along anything can happen. Still the New Zealanders will start as favourites with England on home turf and the Springboks also in contention. The eighth Rugby World Cup kicks off on 18 September.