Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

SA team must punch above their weight to shine at Commonwealth Games

The swimming team is expected to rake in the most medals for the national squad.

With the athletics team missing a bag full of current and former elite stars, and the swimming squad perhaps lacking as much depth as they would like, the reality is that this might not be South Africa’s most memorable appearance at the Commonwealth Games.

But the potential shortage of podium places in the country’s most reliable and consistent sports will open the door for other codes to shine at the multi-sport spectacle.

ALSO READ: Podium hopes: Five of SA’s best medal chances at the Commonwealth Games

Despite a wobbly build-up, which saw the swimming team earning just one bronze medal and the athletics team returning home empty handed from the recent World Championships in those codes, they are still likely to make the largest contributions to the national squad in terms of medals.

The swimming team features the likes of Olympic champion Tatjana Schoenmaker, World Championships medallist Lara van Niekerk, Olympic finalist Kaylene Corbett and World Championships finalist Matthew Sates, who will be looking to spearhead the nation’s assault in the pool.

There will also be plenty of interest in 17-time Commonwealth Games medallist Chad le Clos, who needs just two more medals to become the most decorated athlete in the history of the quadrennial spectacle.

ALSO READ: Schoenmaker leads medal charge, as Le Clos targets Games history

The SA track and field team includes the likes of sprinters Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies (who earned 100m gold and silver at the 2018 Games) and Olympic shot put finalist Kyle Blignaut, as well as para athletes Jonathan Ntutu and Charl du Toit.

In another code which consistently produces Commonwealth podiums, the strong SA lawn bowls squad features three former gold medallists – Petrus Breitenbach, Prince Neluonde and Colleen Piketh – and they should be able to bank on some useful results.

Other sports

The national squad will also be in the hunt for the podium in team sports, with the Blitzboks joining the favourites in the men’s rugby sevens tournament, and the national netball and women’s cricket teams turning out among the contenders if they are at their best.

ALSO READ: Easy draw for Blitzboks in the hunt for Commonwealth Gold

In other codes, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio and Daryl Impey have the experience to make an impact in the road cycling races, along with triathlete Henri Schoeman, who will be looking to regain his best form in defence of the Commonwealth title he won four years ago.

South Africa will have 235 athletes competing in 18 sports over 11 days of competition at the Commonwealth Games.

Following the opening ceremony on Thursday night, where the national flag was carried by Proteas netball captain Bongi Msomi and para swimmer Christian Sadie, most codes were set to get underway on Friday.

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