Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
3 minute read
14 Mar 2018
4:31 pm

SA Athletics Champs: Who to watch and why

Wesley Botton

There are a few stars missing but this weekend's action in Pretoria will still feature a fair amount of big names.

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - MARCH 08: The fastest man in Africa, Akani Simbine wins Men Senior 100m during the 2018 Liquid Telecom Athletix Grand Prix Series at Tuks Stadium on March 08, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Though the likes of sprinter Wayde van Niekerk and javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen will be absent due to injuries, a number of local track and field stars will have points to prove at the three-day SA Athletics Championships starting in Pretoria on Thursday.

Luvo Manyonga (long jump)

Luvo Manyonga. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for IAAF)

Luvo Manyonga. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images for IAAF)

Having taken a back seat throughout the domestic season, Manyonga warmed up for the national championships with an explosive debut campaign on the international indoor circuit. While Ruswahl Samaai fired a warning at his esteemed compatriot with a leap of 8.24m at Tuks Stadium last week, Manyonga is clearly in form after setting an African indoor record of 8.44m to earn silver at the World Indoor Championships last month, and he will hope to remind the fans that he’s still the man to beat

Akani Simbine (100m/200m)

With a weight of expectation resting heavily on his shoulders, in the absence of Van Niekerk, Simbine will line up as the favourite for the 100m/200m double. With a resurgent Anaso Jobodwana and 20-year-old prospect Clarence Munyai aiming to dethrone him in the short sprint, Simbine will be eager to prove he is still the fastest man in the country by dominating both finals

Caster Semenya (800m/1 500m)

Caster Semenya. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

Caster Semenya. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images)

While she will toe the line as the firm favourite in the 800m and 1 500m events, Semenya will be wary of US-based athlete Dom Scott-Efurd, who showed superb form on the indoor circuit in the early stages of the year, over the longer distance. Gearing up for another double at the Commonwealth Games next month, she will look for a confidence boost with a win over Scott-Efurd in the metric mile

LJ van Zyl (400m hurdles)

LJ van Zyl. (Photo by Robert Hradil/Gallo Images)

LJ van Zyl. (Photo by Robert Hradil/Gallo Images)

For well over a decade, Van Zyl has carried the flag in one of the country’s strongest disciplines. An eight-time national champion, he will not line up as the favourite, which is a tag that belongs to title holder Le Roux Hamman, the fastest man in the country this year. One of five SA men to have dipped under 50 seconds this season, Van Zyl will want to capitalise on his experience and prove he still has the ability to deliver under pressure

Breyton Poole (high jump)

Breyton Poole. (Photo by Roger Sedres/Gallo Images)

Breyton Poole. (Photo by Roger Sedres/Gallo Images)

Despite standing more than a full head shorter than many of his opponents, the world youth champion has already leaped 2.25m this season, and though he will take on senior athletes with far more experience, Poole will be among the favourites for gold. The teenager is already a crowd favourite, with his stature making him a natural underdog, and he will be eager to take the baton as the country’s best high jumper.

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