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SA sports stories of the year

EWN Sports Editor Adrian Ephraim reflects on the sports stories that impacted us the most this year.

FILE: Fans wait for a glimpse of the Springboks at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 7 November 2019. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

CAPE TOWN - There are strong contenders for South Africa’s sports story of the year in 2019, none more so than the Springbok rugby team or South African gymnast Caitlin Rooskrantz – and there were others.

They’re all stories that captured the imagination in 2019 and rallied South Africans behind them.

CAITLIN ROOSKRANTZ'S OLYMPIC DREAM

Raised by a single mother after her father died when she was just 7-years-old, Caitlin Rooskrantz, let nothing stop her from achieving her dream.

The 17-year-old matriculant from Parktown High School reached a level of success never seen before from a South African gymnast.

She qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo by winning gold at the World Champs in Germany.

She became the first South African gymnast to qualify for the Olympics outside of competing for an African berth at the Games.

The teenager will now prepare to compete with the best in the world in Tokyo in July 2020.

CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD

It’s fair to say that the Springboks dominated the headlines in 2019 with their historic Rugby World Cup win in Japan.

No team had ever won the World Cup after losing a group stage match. The Boks went down 23-13 to the All Blacks in their first group match – and many had their doubts.

They didn’t count on coach Rassie Erasmus and captain Siya Kolisi hatching a plan that would see them play to their strengths and simply overpower their opposition, before delivering deadly pace on the wings with Cheslin Kolbe and Makazole Mapimpi.

Even after winning the Rugby Championship, the Boks were unwavering in their preparations for the World Cup, arriving in Japan two weeks before the tournament started.

They met a resurgent England side in the final but outplayed their opponents with a deft tactical display – winning convincingly 32-12.

On 2 November, Siya Kolisi, the young man from Zwide township in the Eastern Cape, defied the odds to lift the William Webb Ellis trophy - the first black captain to do so.

The Boks returned home to a hero’s welcome, as millions of South Africans flooded the streets during nationwide victory parades.

GALLERY: Fans bring the 'gees' as Boks tour Cape Town

BRAD BINDER IN THE BIG LEAGUE

But while the Springbok collective grabbed the attention of millions around the world, one South African quietly went about making a name for himself on the racetrack.

Motorcycle racer Brad Binder finished second in grand prix motorcycling's Moto2 division in 2019 and in the process earned himself a crack at MotoGP with KTM in 2020.

It’s been a long and difficult road for Binder, who started in 2011 in 125cc with no wins and no points in that year.

His entry into MotoGP represents a defining moment for Binder as he lines up against the best riders in the world like Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso.

PROTEAS NETBALLERS MAKE WAVES

The Proteas Netball also made waves on the international scene, finishing fourth in a highly competitive Netball World Cup in Liverpool in July.

They narrowly lost 55-53 to Australia in the semifinals. Despite falling short, South Africa’s Karla Pretorius was named Player of the Tournament.

The Proteas Netball team followed up that strong World Cup performance by clinching the 2019 Africa Netball Cup in Cape Town, beating Zambia 72-53 in the final match.

South African sport once again took centre stage in 2019, at a time when the country needed to feel better about itself.

Tell us what your South African Sports story of the Year of 2019 was by tagging us on social media @EWNSport.

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