South Africa’s Stormers beat the Bulls to be crowned inaugural URC champions

By David Ochieng Mbewa

South African rugby side DHL Stormers defeated local rivals the Vodacom Bulls 18-13 in the United Rugby Championship (URC) Grand Final at the DHL Stadium on Saturday to be crowned winners of the tournament’s inaugural season.

Fly-half Manie Libbok, the Stormers’ hero in the semifinal against Ulster, kicked eight points as his side recovered from being 3-7 down at halftime to win a tense finale at their home ground.

DHL Stormers players celebrate with the trophy after defeating the Vodacom Bulls in the United Rugby Championsip[ Grand final at DHL Stadium in Cape Town. /TWITTER/DHL Stormers

Centre Harold Vorster crossed over for a try, in just the second minute, which was converted by Chris Smith to give the Bulls a 7-0 lead but Libbok cut the gap to four with a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Smith restored the Bulls’ seven-point lead with a penalty shortly after the restart but the Bulls leveled the game through Evan Roos’ converted try.

A try by Andre-Hugo Venter in the 56th minute saw the Stormers lead the game for the first time before Smith kicked a three-pointer to reduce the home side’s lead to just two points.

However, Libbok kicked a drop-goal to restore the five-point lead and the Stormers then held on for a memorable win as the Bulls struggled to maintain their forward dominance.

It was the Stormers’ 11th consecutive win in the competition and saw them exact revenge on the Bulls for their defeat in their only final in Super Rugby in 2010.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Commonwealth Games: Wales netball to face South Africa in Birmingham 2022 warm-up

Wales were in action earlier this year against Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man and Gibraltar as they played on home soil for the first time since 2019

Wales will host two games against South Africa on Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 July as part of their build-up to the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The Games will be staged in Birmingham between 28 July and 8 August, with the NEC Arena hosting the netball.

Wales head coach Sara Moore said: “They were absolutely the team we needed to target as part of our Commonwealth Games preparations.

“It’s essential Wales play teams in the top five as regularly as possible.”

The last time Wales played South Africa in a Test match was in 2019 in the Wendy White Test Series, with the Proteas wining both games 84-32 and 79-44, although last year the two sides played each other in a training match in Ireland.

South Africa are currently ranked fifth in the world, with Wales eighth.

“We are both in the same group at the Commonwealth Games and from that perspective we will be using these Test matches as part of our final preparations for Birmingham,” Moore added.

“I’m sure the Proteas will be targeting medals at the Commonwealth Games, based on their recent performances, and of course we have our own goals for the competition, so playing them prior to entering the village will stand us in good stead.”

The mini-series will be played at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff.

https://www.bbc.com/sport/netball/61815566

EPCR confirms participation of South African teams in European Champions and Challenge Cups

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Three South African sides will make historic fist appearances in the 2022/23 Heineken Champions Cup, according to European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR), the governing body and organiser of the two major European rugby union club tournaments.

The DHL Stormers, Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks are among 24 elite clubs which will compete in European rugby’s expanded top-tier tournament. The teams will comprise of eight sides each from the United Rugby Championship (URC), Gallagher Premiership (England) and the TOP 14 (France).

FILE PHOTO: Vodacom Bulls players during a past United Rugby Championship match in Galway, Ireland. /Getty Images

The South African sides qualified for the competition by virtue of finishing in the top eight of the URC following impressive campaigns. The Stormers and Bulls will also contest the final of the URC on June 18 in Cape Town.

The 24 teams will be divided into two pools of 12 with the eight-highest teams from each pool qualifying for the knockout stages which will culminate in the final on May 20 2023, at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, Ireland.

The teams will be separated into four tiers based on their rankings, and teams from the same league in the same tier will not be drawn into the same pool.

Meanwhile, the Johannesburg-based Emirates Lions who will also make a historic first appearance in an EPCR competition when they take part in the 20-team EPCR Challenge Cup as one of eight representatives from the URC.

Another South African side, the Toyota Cheetahs from Bloemfontein, will also participate in the tournament having accepted an invitation to compete. There will also be six teams from the TOP 14 and five from the Premiership.

The clubs will be divided into two pools of 10 with the six highest-ranked clubs from each pool, as well as the 9th and 10th ranked clubs from each of the Heineken Champions Cup pools, advancing to the knockout stages. Like the Champions Cup, the final will be played at the Aviva Stadium on May 19 2023.

The number 1 and number 2 ranked clubs from each league will be in Tier 1, the number 3 and number 4 ranked clubs from each league, as well as the number 5 and number 6 ranked clubs from the URC, will be in Tier 2. The Cheetahs will be in tier 3 alongside the Dragons (Wales), Zebre Parma (Italy), Aviron Bayonnais, USAP (both France) and Bath Rugby (England).

The Tier 1 and the Tier 3 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not in the same league, will play one another home and away over four pool stage rounds.

The Tier 2 clubs which have been drawn in the same pool, but which are not from the same league, will play one another home and away during the pool stage. Tier 2 clubs from the TOP 14 can only play against opposition from the URC, and similarly, Tier 2 clubs from the Premiership can also only play against opposition from the URC.

Both the Champions and Challenge Cups will get underway in December and will be played over eight weekends until May.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

South African coach Pitso Mosimane leaves Al Ahly after two years in charge

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Egyptian giants Al Ahly are searching for a new coach after South African manager Pitso Mosimane left his position with immediate effect after two years in charge of the Cairo-based club.

Al Ahly released a statement on Monday saying Mosimane had requested to leave despite the club’s hierarchy wanting him to stay on in light of his achievements.

FILE PHOTO: Former Al Ahly coach Pitso Mosimane. /Getty Images

Mosimane’s stunning departure comes just about three months after he signed a two-year contract extension with the club which would have seen him remain at the helm until at least 2024.

The 57-year-old enjoyed a successful spell at Al Ahly winning the CAF Champions League and CAF Super Cup twice, the Egyptian Premier League and the Egyptian Cup in addition to securing two third-place finishes at the FIFA Club World Cup.

Despite his success, there had been speculation recently surrounding his future at Al Ahly with some reports claiming he was living on borrowed time at the club.

Mosimane, who left together with his technical team, thanked the management of Al Ahly for allowing him to fulfill a dream by coaching the “biggest club on the continent” and the fans for rallying behind him.

“To the Board, the management and the players, thank you for trusting my instincts and bringing my wishes to life. Without you, none of these would have been possible.”

“To the red nation, the 70 million Al Ahly fans that have stood by me throughout this journey, you have truly inspired me. I have never felt so loved and valued so far away from home. Your passion for football is something I will take with me wherever I go and use it for my inspiration. Shukran.”

Samy Komsan will take charge of Al Ahly for the upcoming games with the club currently in third place in the league seven points behind leaders and bitter rivals Zamalek but with four games in hand.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Sadio Mane’s late penalty lifts Senegal past Rwanda in 2023 AFCON qualifier

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Sadio Mane was Senegal’s hero once more as he scored a late goal to earn the Lions of Teranga a narrow 1-0 win against Rwanda in their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Tuesday.

The match was played at the Stade Me Abdoulaye Wade in Dakar with Rwanda designated as the “home” side as they do not have an international-standard stadium.

Sadio Mane in action for Senegal during a 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. /CFP

Mane converted a penalty eight minutes into added time in the second half to give the defending AFCON champions a second win in two games. It was Mane’s fourth goal in qualifying so far after he netted a hat-trick in the opening game against Benin.

Senegal leads Group L with six points while Rwanda is second, level on one point with Mozambique who will play Benin later.

In Group B, Dango Ouattara scored twice as Burkina Faso avoided a shock result by coming from a goal down to beat Eswatini 3-1 in Johannesburg.

Sabelo Ndzinisa gave Eswatini a shock lead in the 64th minute but Ouattara leveled five minutes later before he turned the game around with his second with 15 minutes of normal time left.

Eswatini were reduced to 10 men in the 84th minute when Lindo Mkhonta received a second yellow card and Burkina Faso took advantage to seal victory with Stephane Aziz Ki scoring their third goal a minute later.

Burkina Faso, who finished fourth at the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year, leads the group with six points, three more than second-placed Cape Verde who defeated Togo 2-0. Eswatini and Togo are third and fourth, respectively, each with one point.

Former champions Zambia also recovered from a goal down to defeat Comoros 2-1 in Lusaka. Kings Kangwa scored an 88th-minute winner after compatriot Enock Mwepu had earlier canceled out Ben El Fardou’s opener.

Zambia’s win means there is a three-way tie at the top of Group H. However, AFCON 2023 hosts Côte d’Ivoire, who are competing to gain competitive match practice, top the standings ahead of Zambia and Comoros due to a superior goal difference.

Only one team from Zambia, Comoros and Lesotho, who are bottom and yet to play Côte d’Ivoire, will advance from the group.

In Group F, Niger held Uganda to a 1-1 draw in Entebbe a result that leaves the West Africans unbeaten and second behind Algeria on two points while Uganda is bottom with one point.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Sadio Mane Scores 98th-Minute Winner for Senegal in AFCON Qualifier

BYKEHINDE GIWA

Sadio Mane scored a 98th-minute penalty in Senegal’s 1-0 win over Rwanda to keep the African champions unbeaten in 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.

The forward ended a dull match in Dakar, Senegal, by holding his nerve to drill home and finally break Rwanda’s resistance.

The Liverpool forward, who has been linked with a move to Bayern Munich, has converted a spot-kick deep into added time for the second time this year, following his 97th-minute winner against Zimbabwe in Senegal’s opening Nations Cup game in Cameroon.

Mane, who also scored the game-winning penalty in the Nations Cup final, is having a memorable season after scoring a hat-trick against Benin on Saturday to become the Teranga Lions’ record goalscorer.

Despite playing in what was essentially a home game for Rwanda, the Nations Cup winners including Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, and PSG’s Idrissa Gueye struggled for form.

Senegal has played their first two qualifiers at home, with Rwanda reversing the match on Tuesday to allow them to continue renovations on their Amahoro Stadium in Kigali.

The Teranga Lions lead Group L by five points after two games, but Benin and Mozambique, who have only played once, meet on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Zambia rebounded from Saturday’s opening defeat against Ivory Coast by defeating Comoros, who beat Lesotho 2-1 on Thursday, earlier in the day in Lusaka.

The island nation, which stunned Ghana in their Nations Cup debut earlier this year, appeared to be on course for another upset when El Fardou Ben Nabouhane scored early.

However, Brighton midfielder Enock Mwepu, who missed the end of the Premier League season due to injury, equalized two minutes into injury time.

Their winner came in the 88th minute, as Kings Kangwa scored to give the 2012 African champions their first points in the group.

Comoros, Zambia, and Lesotho are competing for just one spot in the finals, as Ivory Coast are already guaranteed a place as hosts.

On Thursday, the Teranga Lions will face Lesotho in Johannesburg.

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur breaks into world top five despite French Open disappointment

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Tunisian tennis trailblazer Ons Jabeur continued her steady rise up the WTA rankings breaking into the top five for the first time.

Jabeur is currently ranked fourth in the world, according to the latest rankings released on Monday, despite her shock exit in the first round of the recently-concluded French Open.

FILE PHOTO: Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur plays a shot against Poland’s Magda Linette during their first-round match at the 2022 French Open tennis tournament in Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France. /CFP

Jabeur, who has 4,150 points, only trails world number one Iga Swiatek, Anett Kontaveit and Paula Badosa.

The 27-year-old could possibly rise to as high as number two before the year ends as she only trails Kontaveit and Badosa by 176 points and 95 points, respectively.

Swiatek, who won the women’s French Open, is way out ahead with 8,631 points, nearly twice as many as second-placed Kontaveit.

Jabeur is on record saying the grass surface is “one of the best courts” she likes playing on raising expectations that she could add to her two WTA titles during this season.

In June last year, Jabeur won her maiden WTA title at the Viking Classic Birmingham during the grass court season, though her biggest title to date came on clay when she won the Madrid Open in May.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

Sadio Mane breaks scoring record as Senegal begins AFCON 2023 qualifiers with win

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Sadio Mane scored a hat-trick as Senegal began their qualifying campaign for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations with a 3-1 win at home to 10-man Benin in their Group L match at the Stade Me Abdoulaye Wade in Diamniadio on Saturday.

The reigning AFCON champions raced into a two-goal lead midway through the first half with Mane opening the scoring through a penalty in the 10th minute before doubling his tally 12 minutes later.

Sadio Mane, the man of the match against Benin, at the Stade Me. Abdoulaye Wade of Diamniadio during the first day of the CAN 2022 qualifiers against Benin. /CFP

Benin midfielder Sessi D’Almeida was sent off six minutes into the second half and Mane added a third from the spot on the hour mark for a 3-0 lead.

Mane’s goals meant he became Senegal’s all-time leading scorer moving ahead of former Wigan forward Henri Camara who netted 29 times in 99 matches.

Mane’s feat is more impressive as he broke the record in 90 matches compared to Camara’s tally in 99 matches.

Benin did manage to grab a consolation late in the game through substitute Junior Olaitan.

Elsewhere, former AFCON champions Algeria defeated Uganda 2-0 in Algiers in their Group F match. Aissa Mandi and Youcef Belaili scored in either half while Uganda had earlier failed to level the match with Farouk Miya missing a penalty in the 33rd minute.

Tanzania and Niger are joint-second in the group behind Algeria following a 1-1 draw in Cotonou.

In Group I, Shavy Babicka scored the only goal of the game as Gabon stunned Democratic Republic of Congo 1-0 Kinshasa.

Mauritania, however, leads the group after a brace from Aboubakar Kamara led them to a 3-0 win against Sudan.

In Group G, El Bilal Toure scored twice as Mali thumped Republic of Congo 4-0 in Bamako while the other group match saw Gambia edge South Sudan 1-0.

In Group C, Bonfils-Caleb Bimenyimana scored late on and was then sent off as Burundi held Namibia to a 1-1 draw in Johannesburg. Mamelodi Sundowns forward Peter Shalulile had given Namibia the lead in just the 10th minute.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)

AFCON 2023 Q: Rwanda to host Senegal in Dakar

AFCON 2023 Q: Rwanda to host Senegal in Dakar

Rwanda will visit Mozambique on 2 June (matchday 1) before hosting Senegal on 7 June (matchday 2) for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers (Group L).

The Amavubi will face the Mambas in South Africa, who do not have an approved stadium on their soil. But instead of hosting the Lions of Teranga at the Huye stadium in Butare (southern Rwanda), as initially planned, they will travel to their home in Dakar. And for good reason. The Huye stadium is not approved by CAF.

In view of this match (day 2), the Rwandan Football Federation has reached an agreement with its Senegalese counterpart.

Thus, Senegal will play at home its first two games of the AFCON 2023 qualifiers. The African champions will host the Squirrels of Benin on Saturday 4 June, before facing the Amavubi three days later. Both matches are scheduled to take place at the Abdoulaye-Wade stadium in Diamniadio (about 30km from Dakar).

Wydad AC defeats Al Ahly to win third CAF Champions League title

By David Ochieng Mbewa

Moroccan side Wydad Athletic Club were crowned African champions late on Monday after defeating defending champions Al Ahly 2-0 in the final of the CAF Champions League at the Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca.

The game was a rematch of the 2017 two-legged final which Wydad won 2-1 on aggregate, courtesy of a 1-0 victory at home in the second leg. It was also the third final between Moroccan and Egyptian sides.

Wydad AC players celebrate after winning the CAF Champions League Final 2022 match against Al Ahly at Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca, Morocco. /CFP

Zouheir El Moutaraji scored in either half for the Moroccan side who dethroned the two-time defending champions on home soil.

Wydad took the lead in the 15th minute after Al Ahly lost possession in midfield and El Moutaraji fired a spectacular long-range effort that flew past Mohamed El Shenawy into the top corner.

The second goal came three minutes into the second half through El Moutaraji, who poked a rebound into the net after El Shenawy saved his initial effort after Mohamed Hany failed to deal with a cross in the penalty box.

Zouheir El Moutaraji of Wydad AC celebrates after scoring the second goal goal during the CAF Champions League Final 2022 match between Al Ahly and Wydad AC at Stade Mohammed V in Casablanca, Morocco.

Al Ahly, in search of a record third consecutive title, pressed forward but failed to breach the Moroccan side’s defence.

The win means Wydad clinched the Champions League title for a third time following wins in 1992 and 2017 while Al Ahly’s hopes of a record-extending 11th title will have to wait another season.

(Story compiled with assistance from wire reports)