t the end of a year we always look back and reflect on what kind of annum it was. 2014 produced some fine sporting highlights and I am going to try my best to capture 10 of the most memorable. Naturally it is subjective so feel free to share your favourite (should it be missing) or further discuss if it is already here.
1. Bafana Bafana’s resurgence
In the second half of 2014 Shakes Mashaba took over the reins of Bafana Bafana and oversaw a resurgence we have not seen in many a year. South Africa qualified top of its Africa Cup of Nations group (ahead of Nigeria) and remain unbeaten under Mashaba going to Equatorial Guinea.
2. Chad Le Clos cleans up
No other swimmer should have bothered coming to the swimming pool in 2014 as it was very much the Chad Le Clos show. The Durbanite swept all before him bagging gold in the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly races as well as the 200m freestyle at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Doha but it was a few months before that in Glasgow where Le Clos rewrote history by landing seven medals at the Commonwealth Games , including two golds (setting new Games Records in the 100m and 200m butterfly events), a silver and four bronze medals.
3. Germany’s victory at the FIFA World Cup
The way it should be in football is when the team who scores the most goals wins the tournament. Germany outscored everyone else at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and that statistic was aided by an astonishing 7-1 annihilation of hosts Brazil in the semi-final. The Brazilians (and the whole world really) were shell shocked as the Germans ran rampant netting four goals in six minutes to effectively write off the tie after just 29 minutes in Belo Horizonte.
4. Blitzbokke win Commonwealth Games gold medal
South Africa’s rugby Sevens side are perennial contenders on the international circuit but have never won the Commonwealth Games gold medal. That privilege had largely belonged to New Zealand. Things changed in 2014 when the Blitzbokke enjoyed a superb weekend in Glasgow culminating in a 17-12 final win over the All Blacks Sevens.
5. Mamelodi Sundowns win Absa Premiership
Just like Germany and Manchester City, Mamelodi Sundowns also scored the most goals on their way to winning a title. Sundowns ended a seven year wait for the Absa Premiership title by coming back from a 13-point deficit to overtake defending champions Kaizer Chiefs and win the top flight title in Pitso Mosimane’s first full season in charge at Chloorkop.
6. South Africa’s performance at the Commonwealth Games
The South Africans came home from Glasgow with a handy total of 40 medals. Whether on the track, field, greens, swimming pools or just about anywhere else, there were medals to be won by the South Africans. The medal tally included 13 golds, 10 silvers and 17 bronze medals as South Africa finished as the top African country at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. A special mention should be reserved for South Africa’s lawn bowlers who helped themselves to 16 golds in a grand total of 20 medals.
7. Changing of the guard in men’s tennis
Was 2014 the year in which we witnessed the end of an era in men’s tennis? History will ultimately judge that. However it was not a bad start with Stanislas Wawrinka marching to glory at the Australian Open ousting the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal along the way. Nadal and Djokovic would win a Major each later in the year but neither of them, nor Andy Murray or a revitalised Roger Federer, could halt Milos Raonic’s run to the US Open title. The Croat defeated Kei Nishikori in the final in what could be the first of many finals contested by the sport’s next generation of stars.
8. Europe wins Ryder Cup with relative ease
The United States of America arrived in Scotland at the Gleneagles Hotel looking to capture the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008. Two years earlier the States had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory after the Medinah Meltdown saw the Europeans launch a stunning comeback. The Europeans needed no such heroics this time around as they led from start to vanquish any American dreams this time around.
9. Rory McIlroy dominates men’s golf
Tiger Woods began a comeback late in the year but 2014 was Rory McIlroy’s year. The Northern Irishman sits at the top of the World Golf Rankings and added the British Open and a second US PGA to his collection of Majors. The only trophy missing now is the US Masters and it could be in his possession come April.
10. Portia Modise scores 100 international goals
Banyana Banyana enjoyed a successful 2014 under new coach Vera Pauw winning most matches. However an indifferent showing at the African Women’s Championship saw South Africa struggle through the group stages and then falter in trying to finish in the top three and secure qualification to the FIFA Women’s World Cup. However that did not stop Portia Modise’s march to 100 international goals. Modise achieved this feat in Namibia when she netted her 99th and 100th international goals against Algeria to seal her place in South African footballing history.