However, the second day of the African Athletics Championships in Durban ended in disappointment as the nation’s Olympic relay hopes were crushed.
The SA squad earned 10 more medals, lifting their total tally to 12 (six gold, three silver and three bronze) with three days of competition remaining.
In-form long jumper Ruswahl Samaai launched a leap of 8.40m to win the men’s long jump title, with compatriot Luvo Manyonga taking the silver medal after producing a best attempt of 8.23m.
While Samaai sailed two centimetres further than his 8.38m personal best, he was not credited with a new career record due to a strong tailwind.
In the men’s discus throw final, Victor Hogan overcame poor, windy conditions to earn his third African title in the men’s discus throw, delivering a best heave of 61.68m.
His furthest attempt landed just 22cm clear of compatriot Russell Tucker’s 61.44m effort, with Tucker settling for the silver medal.
Decathlete Willem Coertzen again withdrew during the combined events discipline, after picking up a recurring ankle injury that has affected him for the last couple of years.
Despite pulling out after nine of 10 events, missing the 1 500m race, he managed to grab bronze with 7 196 points.
Countryman Fredriech Pretorius won gold in the gruelling two-day contest, setting a personal best of 7 780.
Claudia Heunis won the women’s 100m hurdles final in 13.35, improving her personal best by 0.01, with versatile compatriot Maryke Brits taking bronze in 13.47. Brits recorded the same time as teenager Taylon Bieldt, who was edged into fourth position in a photo finish.
Carina Horn did well to take silver in the women’s 100m sprint in 11.07, crossing the line 0.01 outside the national record she shares with Yvette de Klerk.
Murielle Ahoure of the Ivory Coast, who recently set an African record of 10.78, secured victory in 11.00.
Fellow speedster Akani Simbine got off to a terrible start in the men’s 100m final, and was well down at the 50m mark, but he produced a late surge to close down the leaders, dipping on the line for third place in 10.05 (with a +2.4m/s tailwind).
Ben Youssef Meite of the Ivory Coast won the race in 9.95.
Closing out the day, the SA men’s 4x100m relay team ended second in their heat in 40.04 to qualify for the final.
Their Olympic qualifying attempt, however, fizzled out in the absence of Simbine and Wayde van Niekerk (both expected to run in the final), Thando Roto, who picked up an Achilles injury, Henricho Bruintjies, who withdrew on the eve of the event with a hamstring strain, and Ananso Jobodwana, who made himself unavailable while recovering from long-term injury.
With the squad needing to dip well under 39 seconds for the first of two aggregate performances required for Olympic qualification, the second-string quartet of hurdler Antonio Alkana, Emile Erasmus, and teenagers Gift Leotlela and Clarence Munyai were unable to make the grade.
Needing to shatter the SA record in Friday’s final to give themselves any chance of booking their place at the Games, after Athletics SA left it to the last minute to make a qualifying attempt, it was highly unlikely the relay squad – considered potential medallists at full strength – would be able to make it to Rio.