World Athletics Championships: all-African podium finish in 3000m steeplechase

A total of 1,972 athletes from 208 countries and territories will compete in the championships, which are seen as an important staging post as Qatar prepares for the challenge of hosting football’s Wo

The 17th edition of the World Athletics Championships started on Friday, September 27, 2019 and will feature several highlights spanning 10 days as the biennial event is staged in the Middle East for the first time.



A total of 1,972 athletes from 208 countries and territories will compete in the championships, which are seen as an important staging post as Qatar prepares for the challenge of hosting football’s World Cup in 2022.



With the bulk of the competition taking place at the fully air-conditioned Khalifa Stadium, most athletes will be shielded from the ferocious heat and humidity in Doha, where temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).



In this article, we will follow the progress of African athletes, celebrating every medal that is won for the continent.



Some of the information one can find in this article includes;




  • Africa makes it to list of new stars

  • Kenya’s Rotich wins Bronze in 800m

  • Uganda’s Nakaayi wins 800m Gold

  • Ethiopia’s Edris wins back-to-back 5000m

  • Kenya wins 3000m steeplechase Gold

  • Medals table

  • Burkina Faso’s historic medal

  • How Kenya won the first medal in Doha

  • How Qatar and athletes are coping with the heat

  • African stars to watch

  • Controversies affecting Team Africa



Medals Table – Africa




  • Kenya, 3 Gold Medals, 2 Bronze medals (3rd overall)

  • Ethiopia, 1 Gold, 3 Silver (6th)

  • Uganda, 1 Gold (14th)

  • Burkina Faso, 1 Bronze medal (28th)

  • Ivory Coast,1 Bronze medal (28th)

  • Namibia, 1 Bronze medal (28th)

  • Morocco, 1 Bronze medal (28th)



Kenya’s Kipruto wins 3000m steeplechase



Kenyan athlete Conseslus Kipruto successfully defended his title in 8:01.35, making history with the second fastest winning time in World Championships history.



Kipruto joins Moses Kiptanui, Saif Saaeed Shaheen and Ezekiel Kemboi as multiple steeplechase gold medallists at the World Championships.



Ethiopia’s Lamecha Girma, took the silver medal in 8:01.36, just 0.01, while Soufiane El Bakkali of Morocco held on for bronze in 8:03.76.



“The Ethiopians had a plan before we started the race,” said Kipruto. “I had a plan for us Kenyans to push hard and I wanted to go in front to control the pace but it was not possible. Those guys, Girma and Wale, simply destroyed my tactics.





“But at championships, I always believe that that experience counts for a lot; it’s not about shape. I set my mind and my heart very well. When I got to the start line, I told myself, ‘I’m going to do it’. This strong mentality helped me win the race.”



New stars emerge



Several African athletes and nations have emerged as some of the new stars that this year’s World Championships have produced.



Burkina Faso won its first ever bronze medal, as Hugues Fabrice Zango, won Bronze in the Men’s Triple Jump.



The Gambia also made Championship history, placing 6th in the Women’s 200m.



Uganda’s Halimah Nakaayi, upset the form book to win Gold in the Women’s 800m.



“They will be very happy back home in Uganda. They are dancing now. It is a historic day,’‘ Nakaayi said as she celebrated with her compatriot, Winnie Nanyondo, the fourth-place finisher.



Ethiopia’s 5000m silver medallist Selemon Barega became one of the first athletes born this century to win a senior global medal.



Kenya’s Rotich wins Bronze in 800m



Kenya’s Ferguson Cheruiyot Rotich secured the bronze medal in Tuesday’s 800m final, adding to the East African nation’s medal tally.



Rotich clocked 1:43.47, behind America’s Donovan Brazier who won gold with 1:42.34, and Amel Tuka of Bosnia at 1:43.82.





Uganda’s Nakaayi wins 800m



Uganda’s Halimah Nakaayi pulled off one of this year’s biggest upsets when she won the women’s 800m category, beating pre-race favorite Ajee Wilson who only managed bronze.



Uganda was perfectly poised to make history, as it had two finalists in the race,the first time the country was featuring in the World Championships finals.



“I was feeling so good, I knew something special was going to happen tonight,” said Nakaayi, whose only previous big meet medal came at the All Africa Games in August, where she took bronze.



“So I just kept pushing and pushing. I was feeling strong and in the end I got it.”



Nakaayi celebrated with her compatriot, Winnie Nanyondo, who finished fourth in 1:59.18.



Nakaayi returns to action on Wednesday in the heats of the 1500m.









Ethiopia’s Muktar wins back-to-back 5000m



Ethiopia’s Muktar Edris who ended Mo Farah’s streak of world titles in 2017, successfully defended his crown in Doha on Monday.



Edris finished the race at 12:58.85, just the third time in World Championships history that the 5000m title was won with a sub-13-minute time.



“I’ve struggled so much over the past few years and have overcome many injuries, so I am grateful to win today,” said Edris.



“I injured my ankle one year ago, then I got some abdominal problems and I didn’t do well in my races. But I didn’t feel pain before coming here, so I told myself that I could fight for the victory.’‘



Edris also joins Farah and Ismael Kirui as a multiple winner of the world 5000m title.



“It was great to see all the people cheering for us,” he added. “With fans like that, you win.”



His compatriot Selemon Barega took silver in 12:59.70 while Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed earned bronze in 13:01.11, earning his country a first ever 5000m medal at the World Championships.







Kenya’s Chepkoech wins 3000m steeplechase



Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech won the 3000m steeplechase with a record time of 8:57.84.









Burkina Faso wins first medal



Burkinabe athlete Hugues Fabrice Zango, won Bronze in the Men’s Triple Jump, earning the country’s first ever medal at the World Athletics Championships.



The reigning African champion also improved the continent’s record to 17.66m.



‘‘I’m really happy to have been able to jump this distance and set a new African record,’‘ Zango said after his feat.



Hugues was beaten to the gold medal by the United States’ Christain Taylor, who had a jump of 17.92m, while the silver medal was also clinched by an American, Will Cayle, at 17.74m.



100m or 200m? The Nigeria mix-up



Nigerian athletes Divine Oduduru and Blessing Okagbare were relieved when the IAAF approved them to participate in the men’s and women’s 200 metres races respectively, following a bureaucratic mix-up.



The pair were both entered in the 100 metres even though they had said they did not intend to take part. Under IAAF rules, they were then barred from the rest of the competition for failing to turn up for the races.



However, on Sunday the IAAF jury said it accepted their appeal and agreed to reinstate them.



“Oduduru and Okabare will be added to the start lists of round one of the 200 men and women respectively” it said in a statement.



The Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), which had tweeted on Friday that the pair would only race 200 metres, has been criticised over the failure to withdraw them from the 100 metres.



The country’s Minister for Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, was among the critics of the situation.



“Doha – all day I have followed the developments around two of our Athletes, Divine and Blessing,” he said on Twitter.



“Our officials are at the IAAF Technical Information Center as we speak. Nigerians deserve an explanation.”



Guinea-Bissau athlete hailed



Guinea-Bissau’s Braima Dabo is being hailed world over for helping exhausted Aruban Johnathan Busby across the 5,000 metres finish line in an astonishing display of sportsmanship.



It was an agonising and heartwarming end to Friday’s opening heat of the men’s 5,000m as a distressed Busby, near collapse, was rescued on the final lap by Dabo and helped home, with the two men crossing the line to a rousing ovation at Khalifa Stadium.



“The main objective was to represent my country as well as possible and I’m happy I could help the other guy,” Portuguese-speaking Dabo told Reuters.



“I saw he was not running in the right way, he was leaning, I realised he wasn’t going to finish.



“I knew I wasn’t going to beat my personal record, so when I realised that, it was better to go for the main aim, which was to finish the race. My thoughts were to help him finish, that is the point of the race.”



The heat was won by Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega in a time of 13 minutes 24.69 seconds but it was the heroic effort unfolding behind the winner that brought the crowd to its feet.









Asked about the crowd’s reaction to his gesture of sportsmanship a humble Dabo, 26, said nothing had changed.



“I continue being the same as before — I’m proud to be here representing my country.”



Kenya wins first Gold medal



Kenya won the first Gold medal of the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, when Ruth Chepngetich won the women’s marathon Friday, clocking 2:32:43.





Chepngetich overcame extreme heat and humidity to win, in a gruelling test of survival that saw nearly a third of the 70 starters fail to reach the finish line.





Chepngetich, who has clocked the third fastest marathon of all-time, did not come close to matching that in the punishing conditions. Her winning time of two hours, 32 minutes, 43 seconds was the slowest ever to win the world championships.



Still, it was enough for a comfortable victory over Bahrain’s defending world champion Rose Chelimo, who settled for silver crossing more than a minute adrift.



Namibia’s Helalia Johannes completed the podium taking the bronze.



“I am very happy with the win and bringing back the gold to Kenya,” said Chepngetich. “It was a tough race but I knew what to expect as I ran in Dubai.



“I trained for this weather running in the afternoon when the sun was high.



“I want to win another for Kenya in Tokyo.”



Too hot for competition?



The opening day of the 10-day event began with the governing International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) issuing a statement that the marathon would go ahead despite concerns over extreme heat and athlete welfare.



As temperatures hovered in the mid-30s Celsius the runners waited their turn in the spotlight as the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach sitting on one side and IAAF boss Sebastian Coe on the other, declared the championships open to an explosion of fireworks.



The midnight start tempered the sting of a searing sun but with the temperature sitting at 32.7C and the humidity index at 73% the conditions were right on the limit of what the IAAF said were allowable.



Despite IAAF assurances that athlete welfare was the top priority, some felt the conditions were so severe that the race should not have been run.



“The humidity kills you,” said Volha Mazuronak of Belarus. “There is nothing to breathe. I thought I wouldn’t finish.



“It’s disrespect towards the athletes.



“A bunch of high-ranked officials gathered and decided that it would take (the championships) here but they are sitting in the cool and they are probably sleeping right now.”



World Championships start



Athletics powerhouse Kenya will be in the spotlight, as the 17th edition of the World Athletics Championships gets under way on Friday in Qatar, following recent doping allegations.



A total of 1,972 athletes from 208 countries and territories will compete in the championships, which are seen as an important staging post as Qatar prepares for the challenge of hosting football’s World Cup in 2022.



Tonight’s midnight marathon launches a 10-day battle for medals as the biennial event is staged in the Middle East for the first time.



Managing the heat in Qatar



With the bulk of the competition taking place at the fully air-conditioned Khalifa Stadium, most athletes will be shielded from the ferocious heat and humidity in Doha, where temperatures can reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).



Marathon runners and endurance athletes, however, will be required to battle through the challenging climate alone, raising safety concerns.



The marathon and race-walking events have been scheduled for late at night to avoid the hottest part of the day, with Friday’s women’s marathon, where the first medals of the championships will be decided — starting under floodlights at 11:59pm (2059 GMT).



International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe said he is confident marathon runners will be able to cope with temperatures forecast at around 32 degrees Celsius and humidity of 80 percent.



Organisers however are leaving nothing to chance, with larger than usual teams of paramedics on hand and an abundance of water stations populating the course on Doha’s Corniche waterfront.



“The overwhelming thrust of this is the welfare of the athletes,” Coe said on Thursday.



“We will have more water on the course than we’ve ever had in any marathon, we will have more medical support and more paramedics out there as well.”



Anticipated highlights



While the women’s marathon brings the curtain down on the first day of action, the newly renovated Khalifa Stadium will play host to the opening track and field events.



The highlights of the first day will include the opening heats of the men’s 100 metres, where US sprinter Christian Coleman will aim to shrug off the missed drug-test controversy which threatened to derail his career.



Coleman, the fastest man in the world over 100m this season, faced being barred from the championships last month after it emerged he had registered three anti-doping “whereabouts failures” in a 12-month period.



However the charges against the 23-year-old American were withdrawn earlier this month because of a technical loophole.



Coleman is amongst a crop of young American sprinters hoping to fill the void created by the retirement of Jamaican sprint icon Usain Bolt, who hung up his spikes after the 2017 worlds in London.



The likeliest candidate to replace Bolt however could turn out to be Noah Lyles, the charismatic 22-year-old who is the favourite in the 200m, with the final taking place next Tuesday.



Chasing records



In the women’s sprints, meanwhile, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is chasing a record fourth 100m gold at the age of 32, two years after skipping a season for the birth of her son in 2017.



Fraser-Pryce opens her 100m campaign in Saturday’s heats with the final on Sunday.



Elsewhere during the championships, world records could come under threat in the men’s and women’s 400m hurdles.



Norway’s Karsten Warholm is set for a battle royale in the men’s event with American champion Rai Benjamin.



In the women’s race, Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad is hoping to improve her new world record of 52.20sec set at the US trials in July.



Team Africa



There is no place in Doha though for South Africa’s 800m star Caster Semenya.



The double Olympic champion misses out after losing a long-running battle against regulations requiring her to take medication to lower her naturally-elevated testosterone levels.



Kenyan athletes Jackline Wambui, who won the 800 metres at the country’s trials, and Linda Kageha, who was in the mixed relay team, also withdrew from the world championships after failing to take mandatory testosterone level tests.



“The IAAF has set tough conditions on gender and doping and we must comply. If an athlete fails to take the tests, they are definitely out of the (world) championships,” Athletics Kenya Vice President in charge of competitions Paul Mutwii told Reuters.



‘‘Wambui and Kageha declined the test on testosterone levels. They had no choice but to withdraw.’‘



Kenya’s doping woos



Meanwhile, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe says the body’s Integrity Unit is investigating allegations of doping against Kenyan athletes.



This follows a report by German broadcaster ZDF, which allegedly showed two Kenyan athletes, one male and one female, being injected with banned performance-enhancing substance Erythropoietin.



The documentary, shown less than a week before the start of the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha, also featured a doctor who said he had treated eight runners.



ZDF also claims to have evidence of possible corruption and collusion between Athletics Kenya and the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya (ADAK).



Up to 41 Kenyan athletes are currently under sanctions, and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has investigated the country, before publishing a report outlining several concerns over the structures in place.



Stars to watch



World athletics chief Coe, elected to a second term as IAAF president this week, hopes Doha will help draw a line under a turbulent first term dominated by the Russian doping scandal that erupted in late 2015.



“I can’t actually remember a time in the sport when I’ve been so optimistic and excited about young talent coming through,” Coe said on Thursday. “The sport is in great shape.”



In tonight’s women’s marathon, Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat will be hoping to wrestle the crown from defending champion, Rose Chelimo who competes for Bahrain.



In the men’s 5000m, Mo Farah’s crown is up for grabs, since he retired from the event. Ethiopia’s Telahun Haile Bekele, who is barely 20, is the fastest in the world this year. Another Ethiopian Selemon Barega, who ran 12:43.02 last year, and is 19, is also a contender for the crown.



Agencies

Kenya's Kipchoge, Cheruyiot, Uganda's Cheptegei nominated male athlete of year

Ten winners from the recent world athletics championships in Doha also are under consideration for the global honour including Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei (10,000m, world cross country title) and Keny

Kenyan athletes, Eluid Kipchoge and Timothy Cheruyiot and Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei are among the 11 nominees for the IAAF male athlete of the year, athletics’ governing body said on Monday.

Kipchoge on Saturday became the first man to run a marathon in less than two hours, finishing a special marathon in Vienna in one hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds.

Ten winners from the recent world athletics championships in Doha also are under consideration for the global honour including Americans Donovan Brazier (800m), Christian Coleman (100m), Sam Kendricks (pole vault), Noah Lyles (200m), and Christian Taylor (triple jump).

Cheptegei won the 10,000m race in Dohga and also holds the world cross country title. Bahamas’ Steven Gardiner (400m), Sweden’s Daniel Stahl (discus) and Norway’s Karsten Warholm (400m hurdles) are also nominated.

Female nominees will be announced on Tuesday.

Fans may vote online on the IAAF’s social media platforms.

Athletes of the year will be announced live on stage at the World Athletics Awards 2019 in November.

ALSO READ: Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge wins IAAF male athlete of 2018

REUTERS

Rugby World Cup: South Africa wary of quarter-final opponents Japan

Namibia and South Africa are in Pool B, along with defending champions New Zealand, Italy and Canada.

Quarter-finals

South Africa will take on the Brave Blossoms in a quarter-final fixture that will inevitably evoke memories of Japan’s shock 34-32 victory over the Springboks in Brighton at the 2015 World Cup.

The Springboks coach, Rassie Erasmus said on Monday they had deliberately played a warm-up fixture against Japan ahead of the World Cup to try and dampen down any talk of the Brighton Miracle.

“In all honesty, the reason for that warm-up game was to erase the Brighton game, so that if we do play them in play-off games, that game hopefully doesn’t get mentioned again,” Erasmus told reporters ahead of their quarter-final on Sunday.

“It’s 1-1, and now we go into a quarter-final game against a really tough team. That (Brighton) game is in the past now.”

South Africa comfortably won that September 6 match, 41-7, but Erasmus acknowledged that their pre-tournament clash would have absolutely no bearing on how both sides played at Tokyo Stadium on Sunday.

Wales will take on France in the day’s other quarter-final. Defending champions New Zealand play against Ireland, while England take on Australia in Saturday’s quarter-final matches.

Typhoon Hagibis affects matches

Organisers of the Rugby World Cup deemed the risk from Typhoon Hagibis so high that they cancelled matches for the first time in the tournament’s 32-year history.

With the huge storm set to potentially devastate parts of Japan, Italy’s game against New Zealand in Toyota and England’s match against France in Yokohama on Saturday have been cancelled while Japan’s game against Scotland on Sunday is also in doubt.

The host nation would advance to the quarter-finals for the first time if their game in Yokohama is called off.

“While making every possible effort to put in place a contingency plan that would enable all of Saturday’s matches to be played, it would be grossly irresponsible to leave teams, fans, volunteers and other tournament personnel exposed during what is predicted to be a severe typhoon,” said tournament director Alan Gilpin.

“We fully appreciate that England, France, New Zealand and Italy fans will be disappointed, but we trust they will appreciate that their safety must come first.”

Super Typhoon Hagibis is heading north toward Japan’s main island and could make landfall on Saturday, with torrential rain, high winds, storm surges and high waves expected.

As it stands, New Zealand will finish top of Pool B with South Africa going through as runners up.

South Africa vs Canada

South Africa celebrated their 500th test by storming into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a 66-7 victory over Canada on Tuesday.

The Springboks ran in six tries in the first half hour at Kobe Misaki Stadium, and Canada’s woes deepened a couple of minutes before halftime when replacement lock Josh Larsen was shown a red card for an illegal shoulder charge at a ruck.

The Boks had wrapped up the bonus-point they needed to secure their quarter-final berth by the 18th minute, with the best of those tries coming from Reinach as he picked up the ball at the base of a ruck inside the Bok 22 and scythed through a gap in the defence.

The Boks will find out who they face in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

Ticket target hit

Rugby World Cup organisers announced on Friday they had hit their target of selling 1.8 million tickets during the tournament.

Despite fears that crowds might be sparse in Japan, not a traditional rugby nation, fans have turned out in their droves, packing stadiums even for games not involving tournament heavyweights.

World Rugby chief Bill Beaumont said the tournament had “captured the hearts and minds of a nation and the global rugby family” and congratulated the Japanese organised for hitting their milestone.

There are now a “limited” number of tickets available on the official ticketing website, as sponsors and nations hand back some seats, organisers said.

“While tickets remain available, our advice to fans is to only buy through official channels to avoid being disappointed,” said Beaumont.

Ticket prices vary widely, from 100,000 yen ($936) for the best seats at the final, to 2,000 yen for the cheapest entry to the pool game between USA v Tonga.

South Africa trounce Italy

South Africa took a critical step towards qualification to the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup when they crushed an Italy side reduced to 14 men for most of the second half 49-3 on Friday.

The win at Shizuoka Stadium took the Springboks above the Italians and New Zealand to the top of Pool B.

The ever-dangerous Cheslin Kolbe scored a try in each half and Bongi Mbonambi, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, RG Snyman and Malcolm Marx also crossed to comfortably earn the twice World Cup winners a bonus point.

Italy’s already tricky task became nigh on impossible when they had prop Andrea Lovotti sent off for dropping Duane Vermeulen on his head in the 43rd minute and their slim hopes of progressing now rest on beating the All Blacks for the first time.

“It was tough in the beginning, we knew what the challenge would be and that it would be a forward battle, so from the first scrum we wanted to give everything,” South Africa captain Siya Kolisi told reporters.

“We wanted to control the set-pieces, because they are very strong in that, and we did that today.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks but we have regrouped. Our coaches and management have been backing us by giving us as much information as possible and the way we responded today was really good.”

Italy had spoken before the game of how discipline would be crucial in deciding the outcome but they specatacularly failed to back their words with action as they battled to match the physicality of their fired-up opponents.

“We played against a very strong side,” Italian captain Sergio Parisse said. “We tried to come back in the second half but after the red card it was very difficult.

“It’s tough for us, but we must keep going forward. We are very disappointed, but we must try and finish well against the All Blacks (on Oct. 12).”

Spectator from space

South Africa’s clash against Italy will be watched by millions of fans across the planet, and one Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano who will be cheering on his team from space.

Parmitano will be watching Friday’s Pool B match from the International Space Station as it orbits some 400 km above the earth.

Italy are looking to upset the Springboks and reach the knockout stages for the first time.

Parmitano, who has been in space since July, had a message for the Italian team.

“You are a team and have to work all together to reach your goal, which is that of winning,” he said in a video posted by the European Space Agency and the Italian Rugby Federation.

It is not the first time Parmitano has broken new ground in space.

In August he became the first person to DJ in space when he played a set from the ISS for a club in Ibiza.

Boks make changes ahead of Italy clash

South Africa have made a few changes in their ranks ahead of the crunch Rugby World Cup Pool B clash against Italy at the Shizuoka Stadium on Friday.

The Boks made three changes to their first-choice pack as they brace for a muscular forward challenge from Italy.

Two of the switches are in the front row as hooker Bongi Mbonambi and experienced prop Tendai Mtawarira come in for Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff respectively.

Lock Lood de Jager, who did not start against New Zealand in their opening fixture, has also been preferred to Franco Mostert as coach Rassie Erasmus looks for continuity in the line-out after a six-day turn-around from the 57-3 victory over Namibia in Toyota City.

“This game is going to be decided by the forwards and at the set phases and we wanted to maximise our options in those battles,” Erasmus told reporters on Tuesday.

“For us this is a crunch game, it’s do-or-die. We will do what we have to do, if we have to grind it out, no matter how we do it, win with a drop-goal or something, we will do it to get out of the pool stages.”

The Boks have chosen a six-two split on the bench, overloading with forwards – hooker Marx, props Kitshoff and Vincent Koch, locks RG Snyman and Franco Mostert, and loose-forward Francois Louw, another sign that Erasmus is concerned about the battle in the pack.

It means the only backline cover comes from utility back Frans Steyn and scrum-half Herschel Jantjies, but Erasmus feels they have enough versatility on the pitch to cover for any eventualities.

“People may think it is a gamble to have only two back replacements, but we want to have plenty of ammunition for what is likely to be a major forward battle.

“It’s a 23-player game these days and the players who come on will be expected to contribute almost as much in game time as those who start among the front rowers.

“Frans can cover (number) 10, 12 and 15, Damian de Allende can play at 13, Cheslin (Kolbe) can play scrumhalf or full-back and Faf (De Klerk) can even play as a flyhalf if needed. So we have a lot of options.”

Centre Jesse Kriel has not been considered as he recovers from a hamstring injury picked up in the opening 23-13 loss to New Zealand.

Team: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Cheslin Kolbe, 13-Lukhanyo Am, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Makazole Mapimpi, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Faf de Klerk, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6-Siya Kolisi (captain), 5-Lood de Jager, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Frans Malherbe, 2-Bongi Mbonambi, 1-Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16-Malcolm Marx, 17-Steven Kitshoff, 18-Vincent Koch, 19-RG Snyman, 20-Franco Mostert, 21-Francois Louw, 22-Herchel Jantjies, 23-Frans Steyn.

The Italians also made changes of their own with South African-born Braam Steyn shifting from number eight to the side of the scrum to accommodate the return of talismanic captain Sergio Parisse.

The match is a must-win game for both sides as they seek a quarter-final berth and will have a knockout feel, with Parisse’s vast experience of 141 caps and five World Cups adding huge value for the Italians.

Steyn will provide muscle, South African know-how and foraging at the breakdown for what Italy coach Conor O’Shea expects to be a brutal physical battle.

“We feel this is the best squad that we could have selected based on the specific game-plan we have for South Africa, so we are very pleased to have everyone fit and available,” O’Shea told reporters in Shizuoka on Wednesday.

“It’s going to be a massive physical challenge and these guys will have to front-up, otherwise we have lost the game before it has even started.”

Italy have a full haul of 10 points from their two Pool B matches but must still face New Zealand after their meeting with the Boks.

Team: 15-Matteo Minozzi, 14-Tommaso Benvenuti, 13-Luca Morisi, 12-Jayden Hayward, 11-Michele Campagnaro, 10-Tommaso Allan, 9-Tito Tebaldi, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain), 7-Jake Polledri, 6-Braam Steyn, 5-Dean Budd, 4-David Sisi, 3-Simone Ferrari, 2-Luca Bigi, 1-Andrea Lovotti

Replacements: 16-Federico Zani, 17-Nicola Quaglio, 18-Marco Riccioni, 19-Federico Ruzza, 20-Alessandro Zanni, 21-Sebastian Negri, 22-Callum Braley, 23-Carlo Canna.

Ecstatic Japan players

Japan’s stunning victory over Japan victory put the host nation in pole position to qualify for the knockout stages and it will surely lead to an explosion of interest in Japan.

“Thank you for today!” Japan hooker Shota Horie said to the crowd after being named man of the match. “Thanks to your cheers, I was able to run to the last centimetre, the last millimetre.

“The tournament still continues, let’s fight calmly and let’s fight together. Thank you for today!”

Veteran forward Luke Thompson echoed those sentiments.

“I am so happy but it’s not finished yet,” he said. “We will concentrate for the Samoa game from tomorrow. We practised the breakdown a lot. Good team work today. I am happy.”

Coach Jamie Joseph said the stunning victory, which matched the upset of twice world champions South Africa at the last World Cup in 2015, had been long in the planning.

“We’re ecstatic about the result,” the New Zealander said.

“We’re really proud of the players, we had a plan, we’ve been training for a long time. We’ve been thinking about this game for quite a long time, obviously Ireland have been thinking about it for the last six or seven days.

“We’ve got another couple of games to go but we’ll enjoy tonight I reckon.”

Japan next face Samoa on Oct.5.

South Africa vs Namibia

South Africa claimed their first victory at the Rugby World Cup, emerging 57-3 victors over Namibia at the City of Toyota Stadium on Saturday.

South Africa ensured that there would be no repeat of the upset earlier in the day by Japan, who beat Ireland, as they ran in nine tries in a slick display.

The Springboks next face Italy on Friday in Fukuroi City in a match that should decide second place in the pool, while Namibia face the daunting prospect of meeting New Zealand in Tokyo on Oct. 6.

Japan upset Ireland

Hosts Japan stunned Ireland 19-12 in an extraordinary upset on Saturday to win their second match of the Rugby World Cup and give themselves a strong chance of reaching the knockout stages for the first time.

The Brave Blossoms came from behind at Shizuoka Stadium to beat a side recently ranked number one in the world in a shock to match their victory over twice world champions South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

Namibia relishing opportunity to take on Boks

Minnows Namibia take on their neighbours South Africa in what they believe will be an exciting Rugby World Cup encounter.

“The nerves are sky-high, it’s something that I have been dreaming of my whole life. I can’t explain the feeling, it just feels very big,” Namibia centre PJ Walters told reporters on Friday.

Walters, who made his international debut off the bench against Italy in the 47-22 loss last Sunday, says his main aim is not to “try anything stupid”.

He played in the fullback position against Italy, but he will line up at the City of Toyota Stadium at inside centre and will likely have a busy evening as the much more fancied Springboks batter the Namibia defensive line with their powerful runners.

As for a gameplan, he said his focus is on sticking to the instructions of coach Phil Davies.

“Stick to the basics… do everything that we have been training on in the last few months. And don’t try anything stupid!”

There is a chance that the enthusiasm of the Namibians may get the better of them and in a World Cup where overzealous, and high tackles are already a major talking point, Walters says the players are well-aware of the consequences.

“It’s on our minds (about high tackles), you know you can get cited. The low cut is the best tackle you can get, so we must just stick with that,” he said.

Walters, 26, is one of many players in the Namibia squad who have been exposed to South African rugby through their schooling and studies.

Born in the tiny southern Namibian town of Keetmanshoop, he was schooled across the border in Upington in South Africa’s Northern Cape.

He was part of the academy of the Johannesburg-based Golden Lions, but never managed to break into the professional scene in the country.

That failure makes Saturday’s clash all the more significant for Walters, giving him a chance to prove his ability, and perhaps put himself in the shop window for professional South African and European clubs.

“When I got the news (of a World Cup call-up) I was having a braai (barbecue) with my cousin and just chilling. Coming from where I come from, it was a very, very big thing for me,” he said.

“There will be no love lost on Saturday because it is against our neighbours, but we also represent Africa together.

“I just think it will be a great clash, a great atmosphere and a big opportunity for us (as players).”

New Zealand, Ireland are good: Boks

South Africa’s coaching staff say New Zealand and Ireland have been the most impressive teams at the Rugby World Cup so far, adding that the Springboks emerged stronger from their 23-13 loss to the defending champions.

“Apart from New Zealand they were the only other team that put in a full 80 minutes of constructive, well-planned, decisive and clinical rugby (in the opening matches),” Bok coach Rassie Erasmus said.

“Physically and tactically they were really good, the same as New Zealand. Those are the two teams that I think have been really consistent in the last two years and they will both be a really tough opponents.”

We are stronger: Boks

The Springboks dominated large parts of their match against New Zealand on Sept. 21 but were undone by two tries in four minutes from the world champions, both coming from South African errors in fielding high balls.

‘‘I know it is a cliché that everybody says when they lose, that ‘we learnt a lot out of it’, but we did. For us it was a great match in terms of tactical, physical and getting challenged in all departments,’‘ Erasmus said.

“Mentally … the build-up during the week, the enormousness of the game, the physicality and speed. You know if you play the All Blacks and you make two errors, it is 14 points (against you), so it was nice to play in a game like that where there is so much pressure.”

The Boks are next in action against minnow neighbours Namibia in Toyota City on Sept. 28 and have made 13 changes to their side in what is expected to be a comfortable win.

South Africa are widely expected to breeze to a bonus-point win over Namibia, which lost its opener 47-22 to Italy, but Nienaber said there are no specific targets in the game other than to put in a performance that showcases what the team has worked on in training.

“We have had an unbelievable vibe at training in terms of the intensity and the things we wanted to fix. Our system will develop and New Zealand opened up something in the way they attacked and their style of play that we have to work on, so it was nice to get that (challenge).”

“We are always trying to improve, so there is no points limit, or to say, ‘if we only concede three points that would be a good defensive performance’, or ‘if we concede 30 I will be disappointed’.

New Zealand regains top rank

Defending champions New Zealand are back to the top of the world rankings, following their Rugby World Cup victory over South Africa.

The All Blacks’ decade-long reign at the world’s number one ranked team came to an end last month, first losing the mantle to 2019 Six Nations champions Wales and then to Ireland.

According to the intricacies of how the standings are calculated, New Zealand would have returned to the summit with a win over their Rugby Championship rivals, regardless of how Ireland did against Scotland, World Rugby said.

In the event, the world champions beat the Springboks 23-13 while Ireland cruised past the Scots 27-3.

South Africa’s defeat pushed them down to fifth, below Wales who start their World Cup campaign later on Monday against Georgia. France’s dramatic victory over Argentina pushed them ahead of Scotland into seventh spot.

Rugby fans react to opening weekend

Namibia impress despite loss

Namibia impressed many rugby fans and pundits, despite falling to a 47-22 loss against Italy, in their Pool B opener at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka on Sunday.

Italy scored three tries within the space of 10 minutes either side of halftime to give themselves some breathing room against a stubborn Namibia side.

Namibia, who have now lost all 20 of their World Cup matches, still managed to give the crowd something to cheer with tries to scrumhalf Damian Stevens and wingers J.C. Greyling and Chad Plato.

The Italians now travel to Fukuoka to meet Canada on Thursday, while Namibia face South Africa in Toyota City on Saturday.

South Africa lose New Zealand clash

New Zealand emerged 23-13 victors over South Africa in a clash between two World Cup favourites on Saturday that never quite lived up to its billing.

Having wrestled the Rugby Championship from their rivals last month, South Africa pinned a scrappy New Zealand back for 20 minutes but, with only three points to show for it, the Springboks were left stunned by two scintillating team tries from wing George Bridge and lock Scott Barrett.

The All Blacks, who have an 11-day break before their next game against Canada, should go on to top Pool B and hope for an easier quarter-final as a result. South Africa next face Namibia in Toyota City.

“It was the full 80 minutes and right to the end of the test match we had to work (hard),” New Zealand captain Kieran Read said.

“Good fortune sometimes happens and in those two moments we managed to take them and that made the difference in the game.”

Read suggested that a greasy ball coming off the Yokohama pitch had made life difficult for the players.

“We had to defend early, but when we did get opportunities we tried to speed up the play a bit but it was pretty tough out there with the conditions.”

The Springboks had the physicality to match New Zealand but not the precision, with too many missed tackles, at times aimless kicking and poor hands under the high ball gifting away territory.

“We didn’t start well and they did, handling our kicking game really well,” Bok captain Siya Kolisi said.

“And a little bit of their physicality as well, I think we took too long to get into the game.

“We stuck to our guns in the second half and we scored first, like we planned, but we couldn’t capitalise on our opportunities.”

Weekend fixtures

Africa’s representatives at the World Cup, South Africa and Namibia, who are both in Pool B, will be in action this weekend.

South Africa’s Springboks will take on defending champions, New Zealand All-Blacks on Saturday, while Namibia take on Italy on Sunday.

Japan wins World Cup opener

Hosts Japan on Friday won the tournament opener against Russia, running out 30-10 winners after being given an early scare by the Russians.

Kotaro Matsushima scored a hat-trick of tries, as the hosts recovered from conceding an early try.

After an opening ceremony featuring a dazzling laser light show and appearances by Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino and All Blacks great Richie McCaw, there were quickly a few fireworks on the pitch.

The Russians, laid on as sacrificial lambs for the opening party, stunned the noisy crowd of 48,745 into silence when they pounced on a Japanese error and scored the tournament’s first try through winger Kirill Golosnitskiy in the fourth minute.

Man of the Match Matsushima replied with Japan’s first try seven minutes later but it was not until he went over for his second just before the break that the error-prone home side took the lead at 12-7.

Japan looked more direct after the break and flanker Pieter Labuschagne soon extended the lead with an individual effort, stripping the ball from an opponent and then running a third of the pitch to touchdown under the posts.

Russia kept coming at the home side but 12 minutes from time Matsushima again showed his pace on the outside to secure the bonus point that might be key to Japan’s hopes of advancing from Pool A, which also includes Ireland, Scotland and Samoa.

“You get out there and realise just how much pressure there is on the night,” Japan coach Jamie Joseph told reporters.

“Our kicking game was pretty poor tonight so we’re going to fix that up quickly,” he added, conceding that his team made a lot of unforced errors.

The Russians next take on Samoa on Sept 24, while Japan go up against the number one-ranked Irish in Fukuroi City on Sept 28 in a match the hosts will be desperate to win if they wish to progress to the quarter-finals for the first time.

They will need a much-improved performance to get anywhere close to what would be a stunning upset to rank with their win over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

New Zealand focused on South Africa clash

Defending champions New Zealand say they are focusing all their energy on the World Cup opener against South Africa on Saturday, which they consider to be their most challenging match.

The two old rivals, who have won the World Cup five times between them, meet in Yokohama to kick-start the tournament and lay down a marker for the weeks to come.

With Italy, Namibia and Canada the other teams in Pool B, regardless of Saturday’s result New Zealand and South Africa would expect to qualify for the quarter-finals.

It means the All Blacks, who are chasing a third consecutive World Cup, will be holding nothing back on Saturday.

“We’re actually not thinking too far ahead in this tournament right now because this weekend is a pretty big weekend, isn’t it?” assistant coach Ian Foster said on Tuesday.

“And it’s kind of made it really good for us as coaches because we can just put all our energy into that first game.

“Whichever way it goes then I guess we can sort out the plan that we follow after that.”

South Africa come into the tournament having only lost once in their last seven matches, including a draw with New Zealand in July. The Springboks were victorious when the two sides met in Wellington this time last year.

That means New Zealand are way of the threat posed by coach Rassie Erasmus’ team and are looking at the match more as a standalone contest than a World Cup tone setter.

“We’re at a heightened state always when we play South Africa,” said Foster. “I know the World Cup is big but I guess our focus has been on this game for a while.”

REUTERS

South Africa calls for fairness

South Africa’s Springboks on Monday called on the French referee Jerome Garces to treat them as equals during this weekend’s opening Pool B blockbuster clash with defending champions New Zealand.

Assistant South Africa coach Mzwandile Stick said that with the gap between the All Blacks and their potential rivals for the Webb Ellis Cup closing, match officials need to be consistent in how they applied the laws to all teams.

In the past, World Cup-winning All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, a wizard in the loose, was often accused of influencing referees to rule in his favour at the breakdown.

“The fans are excited by this one and looking forward to it,” former South Africa sevens specialist Stick said of the Saturday’s showdown in Yokohama.

“Hopefully the officials maybe will treat everything equally and respect the game and also respect the fans.”

South Africa topped New Zealand in this year’s Rugby Championship and Ireland are currently ranked world number one but Stick said the All Blacks remain the team to beat.

“If you look at previous history when it comes to the All Blacks, they’ve been dominating at Test level and it’s always the case that whenever they go to the World Cup they are favourites,” he said.

Recent history between the Boks, who are blooming under coach Rassie Erasmus, and Steve Hansen’s All Blacks promises to make for a tight encounter on Saturday.

“Things are a lot more balanced between us an New Zealand right now,” Stick said.

“We can’t ask for any better build-up towards the World Cup: if you look at the last three games we played against the All Blacks, in Wellington last year we won by two points, they came to Pretoria and won by two points, and then we drew against them again this year in Wellington.

“We’re looking forward to this challenge, it’s going to be a tough one… against one of the best teams in the world and given the history between the two teams.”

AFP

South Africa defeats Japan

South Africa cruised to a comfortable 41-7 victory over Japan on Friday in their final World Cup warm-up match, thanks to a hat-trick of tries from Makazole Mapimpi.

Winger Cheslin Kolbe opened the scoring with a neat finish on seven minutes, before Mapimpi ran in two easy tries from the other flank as the Springboks built a 22-0 lead at halftime in Kumagaya.

Further tries from Mapimpi and Kolbe either side of Kotaro Matsushima’s consolation and a final flourish from Herschel Jantjies secured victory for South Africa and helped soothe the memory of Japan’s famous win at the 2015 World Cup.

With this victory, South Africa laid down a tournament marker and gained revenge for defeat four years ago, while Japan must look for improvement in their World Cup opener against Russia on Sept. 20.

Africa’s representatives

South Africa and Namibia, who will be representing the African continent at this month’s Rugby World Cup, are finalising preparations that they hope will be sufficient to secure glory.

Both teams are in Pool B, along with defending champions New Zealand, Italy and Canada. Hosts Japan will open the World Cup against Russia on Sept. 20 in Tokyo before South Africa face old rivals New Zealand in Yokohama. Namibia play their first match against Italy on Sunday 22.

South Africa raring to go

South Africa, who have won the World Cup twice, are set to play their final warm-up match against hosts, Japan.

The Springboks will be wary of Japan who caused one of the biggest upsets in tournament history with their 34-32 victory over them at the 2015 World Cup in England.

“You can definitely see this is a much different team, much more fitter, much more stronger. Their systems are working and they know exactly what they are about, they know their strengths and weaknesses,’‘ said Siya Kolisi, South Africa’s captain ahead of the match.

Namibia seeks maiden victory

Namibia will be seeking their first ever World Cup victory, 20 years after they debuted at the prestigious tournament.

They are banking on the experience of their Welsh coaches to end a 19-match losing streak.

Former Wales forward Phil Davies has been in charge of a team known as the Welwitschias, a sturdy desert plant, since just before the last World Cup in 2015.

Davies works with compatriots Mark Jones (backs) and Dale McIntosh (forwards) as assistant coaches, while another Welshman, Wayne Proctor, is responsible for strength and conditioning.

“This is not a case of jobs for the ‘boyos’,” Davies stressed. “They are used to working with full-time and part-time professionals and that is what we have in the Namibian squad.”

Scrum-half Eugene Jantjies is set to play at a fourth consecutive World Cup and says the Welwitschias’ aim continues to be finding a winning formula.

“This is the best squad we have had for many years and after coming so close to winning four years ago, I believe we can create history in Japan,” he said.

READ MORE: South Africa names squad for 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan

Kenyan Brigid Kosgei breaks women's marathon record set 16 years ago

Kosgei set a blistering pace from the start to shatter the previous record of 2:15:25 which Briton Radcliffe set in London in April 2003

Kenyan Brigid Kosgei broke Paula Radcliffe’s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record when she ran two hours, 14 minutes, four seconds at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday (October 13).

Kosgei set a blistering pace from the start to shatter the previous record of 2:15:25 which Briton Radcliffe set in London in April 2003.

Radcliffe was on hand to witness the fall of her record.

Kosgei’s run came little more than 24 hours after fellow Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge became the first man to run 26.2 miles in less than two hours, clocking 1:59:41 in Vienna.

Unlike Kipchoge’s performance, however, Kosgei’s mark was set in an official race on a record-eligible course.

American gymnast Simone Biles breaks world record

The four-time Olympic champion is now the owner of 19 gold medals across four championships against 12 for Scherbo, who competed in five world events between 1991 and 1996

American Simone Biles became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history on Sunday (October 13) when she won the beam and floor finals to take her career tally to 25 medals.

Soon after securing a convincing victory on the beam in Stuttgart to overtake Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo’s record tally of 23 world medals, the 22-year-old Biles successfully defended her floor title to win medal number 25.

The four-time Olympic champion is now the owner of 19 gold medals across four championships against 12 for Scherbo, who competed in five world events between 1991 and 1996.

Making her final appearance of the week in front of a raucous crowd, Biles wasted no time as she landed a superb triple-twisting double back flip — known as the Biles II – on her first pass.

Biles’s double layout with a half turn — another skill named after her — put her out of bounds for a 0.1 penalty but she did enough to post a winning score of 15.133.

The Americans took a one-two finish as Sunisa Lee finished with 14.133 for the silver medal, while Russian Angelina Melnikova came third.

Earlier, Biles delivered a polished routine on the beam before a full twisting double tuck dismount for an impressive 15.066.

Last year’s winner Liu Tingting of China took silver with 14.433, while team mate Li Shijia won the bronze.

Biles finished her campaign in Stuttgart with five gold medals from six events to mark ideal preparations for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Her barnstorming run included a record fifth all-around gold as well as helping the U.S. to a fifth straight world team title.

Nikita Nagornyy won the men’s individual vault final for his third gold medal at the world gymnastics championships in Stuttgart, while team mate Artur Dalaloyan ensured a one-two Russian finish.

Nagornyy scored a total of 14.966 from his two vaults— beating Dalaloyan by a slim margin of 0.033, while Ukraine’s Igor Radivilov took the bronze medal.

The Russian men have enjoyed a memorable week in Stuttgart, winning their first-ever team gold on Wednesday, before Nagornyy collected the all-around title two days later.

Britain’s Joe Fraser won gold in the men’s parallel bars, scoring 15.000 to clinch his maiden world title. Turkey’s Onder Ahmet took the silver with Kaya Kazuma of Japan securing the bronze medal.

In the men’s horizontal bar final, Arthur Mariano of Brazil clinched his first world title, scoring 14.900. The silver medal went to Tin Srbic of Croatia with Russia’s Artur Dalaloyan taking the bronze.

Guinea wins West African Football Union tournament

Both sides had drawn 0-0 following 90 minutes and extra-time in a disappointing final on Saturday.

A big win for Guinea as its side A thrashed Cape Verde 4-3 on penalties to win the first ever consolation Plate competition in the West African Football Union tournament in Thies, Senegal.

Both sides had drawn 0-0 following 90 minutes and extra-time in a disappointing final on Saturday.

Cape Verde can afford to count themselves fortunate when they had a seemingly good goal by Osvaldo Martins ruled out for offside.

The ball fell into Martin’s path via a Guinea defender and should have stood.

Team Cape Verde also had the best of the chances.

But the team missed two of their penalties in the shootout with Guinea’s Morlaye Sylla keeping calm to convert the vital kick.

AP