Lyon gives Australians hope

Nathan Lyon.

In a once-dominant team humbled by a cheating scandal and still racked with doubts about its identity, spinner Nathan Lyon has been a reassuring throwback to an age of hard-bitten Australian cricketers who talked the talk and walked the walk.

After India completed a 31-run victory in the series-opener on Monday, few of Captain Tim Paine’s players will report for duty at the Perth second test with enhanced reputations. Lyon, however, is not one of them as he burnished his stature at Adelaide Oval by anchoring a gritty tail-end push for a final day victory after he had taken eight wickets with the ball. Australia may have failed in their bid to pull off an unlikely victory, but Lyon ended the match unbeaten on 38 as he ran out of partners at a venue where he wore overalls as a groundsman eight years ago.

A cult hero in Australia, the 31-year-old has been nicknamed the ‘GOAT’ (Greatest of All Time), for good reason. His 326 test wickets is a record for an Australian off-spinner, more than double the 141 taken by Hugh Trumble more than a century ago. But the man known as “Gazza” to his team mates has become much more than a sum of his statistics, and seems to add a new string to his bow every season. Last year under Captain Steve Smith, who is currently serving a suspension for ball-tampering, Lyon became the team’s unofficial sledger-in-chief in the lead-up to the Ashes. He first tore into the 2013-14 England team that were whitewashed 5-0 and spoke of “ending careers” in Joe Root’s side on their subsequent tour Down Under in a rant that was denounced widely in British newspapers. He backed up his words with 21 wickets as Australia thrashed England 4-0 to regain the urn they had relinquished in 2015.

Lyon also marked himself as an elite fielder in the series, with a stunning, one-handed caught-and-bowled effort to dismiss Moeen Ali at Adelaide Oval emerging as the highlight of several brilliant plays. A year later, Lyon appears to have enhanced his overall repertoire with an improved batting technique.

Against India, Australia were staring down the barrel at 104 for four at stumps on day four, still 219 runs short of their victory target, when Lyon issued a rallying cry.

“We’ve got a massive sniff here, I believe anyway, in this test match,” he told reporters after taking 6-122 to limit India to 307 in their second innings. He called on his team mates to be “heroes” but nearly became one himself in a mature 47-ball knock that was at odds with the usual tail-end slog-fest. It was a result of a winter batting sessions with his brother Brendan Lyon, who runs a coaching school for juniors, state radio reported.

Australia head into Friday’s test plagued with doubts about its batting and the wayward form of pace spearhead Mitchell Starc. But with Lyon in the side, they at least have a model for inspiration and grit, qualities sorely needed to turn the four-match series around and deny India a first ever victorious tour Down Under.

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Ronaldo wants to resume Messi rivalry in Italy

Christiano Ronaldo

Juventus striker Cristiano Ronaldo would like Barcelona’s Lionel Messi to leave Spain and rekindle their rivalry by joining him in the Italian top flight.

Ronaldo moved to Serie A champions Juventus in July for 100 million euros ($113.76 million) after spending nine trophy-laden seasons at Real Madrid.

Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the global football landscape for a decade, each winning the Ballon d’Or five times before Croatia international midfielder Luka Modric broke their stranglehold by claiming the coveted award this year.

“I’d like (Messi) to come to Italy one day,” Ronaldo told reporters. “I hope he accepts the challenge like me, but if he’s happy there then I respect that.”

Asked if he missed his rivalry with Messi, Ronaldo suggested it might be the other way round.

“No, maybe it’s him who misses me,” he said. “I’ve played in England, Spain, Italy, Portugal and for my national team, while he’s still in Spain. Maybe he needs me more.”

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BrightRock, MyPlayers to honour SA rugby stars

Awards logo

South African Rugby players are set to honour their own at the second annual BrightRock Players Choice Awards on Tuesday evening.

The awards, in association with BrightRock and MyPlayers, will take place in Johannesburg at the Sandton Convention Centre.

The awards are the only of their kind in South Africa where professional rugby players from the country’s 14 unions vote for their top players across six different categories.

The 7th is a Fans’ Choice category where SA rugby lovers were given the chance to vote for their favourite players of 2018.

The 2018’s flagship award will again be the coveted Players’ Player of the Year award, won in 2017 by Springbok Captain Siya Kolisi.

Kolisi, who is in the running for it again in 2018, competes along with Aphiwe Dyantyi, Kwagga Smith and Malcolm Marx.

Other categories include Defender of the Year, Forward of the Year, Backline player of the Year and Best off the bench and the #LoveChange Award which will be handed down to the most improved player.

Fans were also able to get in on the action by voting for their favourite player among Werner Kok, Damian Willemse, Hacjivah Dayimani and Warrick Gelant.

The fans’ favourite will receive R50 000 for their chosen charity.

Follow @SABCNewsOnline and SABC News Digital Producer @Pabi_Lephaka on Twitter from 18:30 for live updates.

 

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Japan’s Seto breaks Le Clos record

Daiya Seto

Japan’s Daiya Seto has broken Chad le Clos‘ 200 metre butterfly Short Course world record and won the gold medal at the Short Course World Championships in Hangzhou, China.

There was very little to choose between Seto and Le Clos with the South African leaving his strong finish just too late.

Both touched the wall under Le Clos’ world record of 1 min 48.56 seconds.

Seto won in 1 min 48.24 seconds, eight hundredths of a second ahead of Le Clos in second place.

Le Clos’ countryman, Cameron van der Burg, who was 9th fastest overall in Tuesday morning’s 100 metres breaststroke heats, was sixth fastest in the Tuesday afternoon semi-finals and qualified for Wednesday’s final.

 

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Springboks coaches to work with Super Rugby teams

Rassie Erasmus in front of Springboks logo

South Africa Coach Rassie Erasmus and his assistants are to spread out across the country’s four Super Rugby teams to offer support as they look to harmonise preparations for 2019’s World Cup in Japan.

The Springbok coach and his assistants Jacques Nienanber, Matt Proudfoot, Mzwandile Stick and Aled Walters will work with the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers, who have started preparations for the new season starting in February.

Erasmus’s first posting will be to help new Bulls Coach Pote Human, who replaces John Mitchell, who left to join the England coaching staff.

“All of the coaches worked with one or other of the franchises in the past year to exchange ideas and expertise and hopefully assist the teams in raising the performance bar,” Erasmus said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Strong performances at franchise level will translate into strong Springbok performances – it’s a win-win.”

Erasmus said the coaches would in no way be dictating style or tactics or trying to impose a national blueprint on teams.

“We will assist in generic areas such as skills and conditioning, mauling, scrumming and lineouts,” Erasmus said.

“It will also give the national coaches a chance to discuss individual players with the franchise coaches and work on specific areas for specific individuals.

“But it is not our role to have input on selection or game plan – that can only be determined by the franchise head coach. But we do believe this is approach can work for South African rugby in its broadest sense at the start of a very important Rugby World Cup year.”

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India keen to carry winning momentum to Perth

Indian cricket team

Having become the first Indian team to win a test series-opener on Australian soil, Virat Kohli’s side are determined to keep the momentum rolling into the second clash in Perth and inch closer to a breakthrough series triumph Down Under.

India were made to work harder than expected in the 31-run win at Adelaide Oval, and their bowlers will have only three days’ rest before taking to the field again at Perth Stadium on Friday.

Despite the quick turnaround, Kohli suggested the tourists were leaping out of their skins to land another blow on Tim Paine’s shaky side in the four-match series.

“They are at their peak, all of them together and it’s something that we as batsman look at as an opportunity to put in good performances,” Kohli said of his attack, rated India’s most potent in years.

“We will be, in every test match, gunning for a result.”

Compared to his counterpart Paine, weighed down by a sore index finger and a long list of concerns, Kohli heads to Perth with a spring in his step.

India’s Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami enjoyed a stellar debut as a pace unit in Australia, sharing 14 of the 20 wickets at Adelaide Oval, bowling with sustained pressure and limiting the hosts to a single 50-run partnership.

Kohli’s batsmen got off to a shaky start and needed man-of-the-match Cheteshwar Pujara’s glittering 123 to achieve a modest first innings total of 250.

However, after Australia was bowled out for 235, they were quick to seize the momentum and build valuable partnerships to all but bat Australia out of the game.

Though beaten and vulnerable, a chastened Australia can be expected to fight back hard on a wicket likely to suit their classy pace attack.

Kohli will hope for more from the recalled opener Murali Vijay, who has struggled to justify his place in the side this year. He managed only 11 and 18 in Adelaide, undone by Australia’s pace spearhead Mitchell Starc both times.

With sidelined young opener Prithvi Shaw seen limping around Adelaide Oval after his ankle injury during a tour match, the veteran Vijay should have another chance to stake his claim.

Kohli, who struck four centuries in the 2014-15 tour of Australia, is also due a score after being dismissed for three and 34 in Adelaide.

The India skipper noted that his team’s tail-end batting was trumped by Australia’s as their last five wickets could only muster 25 runs in the second innings.

A more determined application could have set Paine’s side a higher target than the 323 for victory, while saving India a lot of nerves on day five.

India first toured Australia in 1947-48 and is yet to win a test series Down Under in 11 previous attempts.

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Klopp always backed Salah

Mohamed Salah

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was never worried about Mohamed Salah being able to follow up his stellar first season at Anfield but conceded both the player and club must learn to cope with a raised level of expectations.

The Egyptian forward, who scored 44 goals for the Merseyside club in all competitions during his debut campaign, fired a brilliant hat-trick in Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Bournemouth to send unbeaten Liverpool top of the Premier League.

A dislocated shoulder during the Champions League final in May and a disappointing World Cup seemed to hang over Salah at the start to the season but Klopp believes the 26 year old had never lost his scoring touch.

“I’m interested in the moment but I never judge it because the moment is just a little part of all what we do. So I was not for one second worried. If you score 10 goals in the first five games everyone would say ‘It will happen again’. But if you score 39 goals in a season it would be ‘Yeah but it’s not 41’. So we all have to learn to deal with it and of course he (Salah) has to as well. He has never had a season like that and he wants to have the season again,” explains Kloop.

The three goals against Bournemouth took Salah’s tally to 10 Premier League goals this season as he also became the fastest Liverpool player to reach 40 goals in the competition after he reached the milestone in his 52nd match.

Liverpool returns to action on Tuesday when they host Napoli in a must win Champion’s League group stage encounter.

The Merseyside club, who were beaten by Real Madrid in the final last season, need to win either 1-0 or by two clear goals to progress to the last 16.

“We have the chance with a specific result still to go through when this Champions League campaign so far was not really ours. We have to be on our toes on Tuesday night. It’s a big one, our people know that and I know they are already warming up,” says Klopp.

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SA among potential hosts for 2019 Africa Cup of Nations

CAF Logo

South Africa could step in as hosts of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, according to the president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Ahmad Ahmad in an interview with AFP on Monday.

CAF has been studying alternative solutions for the staging of the June 15 to July 13 event after Cameroon were withdrawn as hosts due to delays with preparations and security concerns.

A final decision on who will host next summer’s football showpiece will be announced on January 9, Ahmad said.

He added that for now “two or three” candidates had shown an interest in taking over from Cameroon, the Madagascan naming South Africa as having filed a letter of intent.

“According to my information, two or three letters of intent have arrived,” the CAF president told AFP.

“South Africa is one of the countries to have sent a letter of intention. Two or three countries have made serious inquiries.”

The decision to ditch Cameroon for 2019 has created a confusing merry-go-round. Ahmad said in an interview last week the west African country will now host the 2021 edition, originally given to Ivory Coast, who will now host the tournament in 2023.

The hosts for 2019, meanwhile, will be chosen from a short-list whose submission deadline is December 14.

“Everything will be finalised by December 25 to create a short-list of candidates who have been evaluated and noted,” Ahmad said.

“The executive committee (of the CAF) will meet in Dakar on January 9, when we will make a decision.”

In 2014, then CAF president Issa Hayatou of Cameroon announced the hosts of three successive editions of the biennial tournament: Cameroon (2019), Ivory Coast (2021) and Guinea (2023).

Amid confusion over how next month’s decision could affect who will host subsequent editions, Ahmad told African television channel Media TV last week that Cameroon would host the tournament in 2021 while Ivory Coast would organise the 2023 edition.

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SA take bronze at Cape Town Sevens

South Africa won the bronze medal at the Cape Town Sevens, the second leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series.

They beat New Zealand ten-five in the third place play-off, with tries from Rosko Specman and Dewald Human.

Captain Phulip Snyman was one of those who had a number of injuries on the final day. Yet he’s happy with the way the team has improved after their disappointment in Dubai the previous week-end.

“Over the last two days, we lost two games in the dying seconds. And today we managed to get one back over New Zealand so I think for our confidence it’s very important this last win. And we can go into this holiday now with one win over New Zealand and take some confidence, so happy with the last win.”

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Fiji take Cape Town rugby sevens title

Fiji ran out convincing winners of the Cape Town leg of the World Rugby Sevens series after beating the United States 29-15 in the final on Sunday.

Fiji turned the tables in emphatic fashion after they were beaten by the Americans in the quarterfinals of the first leg of the series in Dubai a week earlier.

The match was effectively won and lost in the last minute of the first half. Fiji were leading 5-0 after a long-range try by captain Kalione Nasoko but the United States were on the attack before a loose pass was intercepted by Vilimoni Botitu who ran unchallenged from deep inside his own half to score under the posts.

The woes for the Americans continued almost from the kick-off when world sevens player of the year Perry Baker dropped the ball and provided an easy try for Sevuloni Mocenacagi to make it 17-0 at half-time.

Man of the match Botitu and Nasoko added further tries in an evenly-contested second half during which the United States scored crossed through Ben Pinkelman (2) and Carlin Iles.

The United States went top of the series standings with 38 points thanks to two second place finishes, one more than Dubai winners New Zealand. Fiji moved up to third on 35 points, followed by England (30) and South Africa (29).

“We were disappointed last week when we didn’t perform to the level we did this week,” said Fiji coach Gareth Baber, who hailed a “great effort” from his team.

The United States outplayed New Zealand in the semifinals, avenging their defeat in the final in Dubai with a 31-12 win.

They scored five tries to two, including a sensational individual effort by Danny Barrett who sent two would-be tacklers sprawling as he barged down the right touchline.

“To make two consecutive finals is great,” said Barrett. “Our goal is to be a top four team.”

– Cape Town silenced –

Fiji silenced a capacity crowd when they defeated hosts South Africa 17-12 in the other semifinal.

The Blitzboks, wearing colourful jerseys to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of former president Nelson Mandela, seemed to have a great chance to win the match with the scores at 12-12 when Fiji’s Vetema Ravouvou was yellow-carded and the hosts were awarded a penalty inside the last two minutes.

But despite being down to six men, Fiji took advantage of a handling error by South Africa with 20 seconds remaining, winning possession from the resultant scrum setting Alosio Naduva free to race through for the winning try.

South Africa went on to clinch third place with a hard-fought 10-5 win over New Zealand.

Spain recorded their best finish in a sevens tournament by taking sixth place. They were beaten 14-7 by England in the fifth place final at the end of a campaign during which they defeated higher-ranked teams Argentina and Scotland.

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