Benzema has been one of the few bright sparks in an otherwise dreary campaign for the European champions and it was his second-half treble that proved the difference at the Santiago Bernabeu.Victory moves Madrid four points behind Atletico in second, while Bilbao stay seventh, with their chances of sealing a spot in the Europa League dented. However Zinedine Zidane’s side stay 13 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, who beat Real Sociedad 2-1 on Saturday.Benzema’s advance in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and surge since the reappointment of Zidane comes in stark contrast to Gareth Bale, who was whistled when introduced as a substitute here and frequently during his 20 minutes on the pitch. For all the impatience of the home crowd, it was Bale who won the corner for Benzema’s second and then teed up his team-mate’s third in injury-time. But his sixth season at Real Madrid will surely be his last, with Zidane saying little in press conference either to express support or suggest he wants the Welshman to stay beyond the summer. Bale and Benzema with the gargantuan task of filling the void left by Ronaldo’s departure for Juventus last summer and while Bale seems to have shrivelled under the weight of expectation, Benzema has thrived.The 31-year-old has now claimed all of Madrid’s last eight goals in La Liga, a run that includes five matches, while in his last seven games, he has scored 10.– Benzema saves limp Real –Benzema said at the start of the season he wanted 35 goals in all competitions and, despite his opportunities being reduced by his team’s early exit in the Champions League, he is now only five short of his target with the same number of games left to play. Zidane has already said he expects Benzema to be a Madrid player again at the start of next season and on this evidence it is easy to see why.The striker’s clinical performance aside, the reigning European champions lacked spark in the final third and, the emphatic scoreline flattered them. They were particularly underwhelming in the first half and Bilbao’s Inaki Williams might have scored early in the second had the 22-year-old Jesus Vallejo not made an excellent last-ditch intervention. It was from the counter-attack that Madrid scored as Toni Kroos was allowed to stroll forward unattended and feed Marco Asensio out wide. Asensio crossed for Benzema to head home.The game was reduced to almost a walking pace around the hour, with the Madrid fans roused only to jeer the introduction of Bale, who came on with Isco, with 20 minutes left. But it was his run in behind that won the corner for Benzema’s second, another header, this time at the back post, before a comical mix-up in the Bilbao defence gifted him his hat-trick. Iago Herrerin rushed out to intercept a speculative ball over the top but made a mess of his headed clearance, the ball falling to Bale to tee up Benzema, 30 yards out but with the goal open.
South Africa captain Siviwe Soyizwapi sealed a 12-10 win over Fiji with a last-minute try in the final of the Oktoberfest 7s on Sunday in Munich after New Zealand had earlier claimed third by beating hosts Germany.South Africa were 10-5 down in a gripping final against the reigning World Sevens Series holders with time almost up when Soyizwapi burst over, dotting down near the posts for a converted try to win the Munich tournament.The invitational Oktoberfest 7s, held against the backdrop of the famous beer festival, was used by top teams as a warm-up for the World Series, which kicks-off in Dubai this December, as Germany hope to host a leg in the future.Kurt-Lee Arendse drew first blood for the Blitz Bokke in the final, but Olympic champions Fiji hit back with tries by Apenisa Cakaubalavu, following a superb off-load from Isoa Tabu, and Vuniona Vuki, who crashed over before the fleet-footed Soyizwapi settled the matter.“It was a great effort from the boys,” said South Africa coach Neil Powell.“In terms of structure and game plan, it’s still very early in the season and not where we want to be, but the guys showed a lot of character.”Fiji coach Gareth Baber praised his inexperienced squad, which included five Under-20 players, but was superbly led by captain Terio Tamani, who earlier scored the last-minute winning try in the 14-12 semi-final victory over New Zealand.“We’re building depth and this is the first time this group has ever played together, so I am proud of what they have achieved,” said the Welshman.Both Fiji and South Africa reached the final by winning their three group games on Saturday, but the weekend’s surprise package were hosts Germany, who beat France and the USA on Saturday to reach the last four.Cheered on by home fans in Munich, the European champions pushed South Africa hard in their semi-final on Sunday before losing 17-12, then ran out of steam in the third-place play-off, going down 22-12 to New Zealand as Rewita Biddle showed his pace for the All Blacks with two tries.“We knew Germany would be tough, no surprises there, they have been unlucky to not qualify for the World Sevens Series, so we had expected a tough battle,” said New Zealand’s Scott Curry.“It’s been huge for us to come here, put some young guys in pressure matches and test their skill set at a tournament just before the world series.”Defending holders Australia, who won the inaugural tournament in 2017, lost to both New Zealand and South Africa in Saturday’s pool games, finishing fifth by drubbing France 33-5 with Lachie Anderson claiming a hat-trick in a play-off on Sunday.For more sport your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.
Ireland returned to winning ways at the Rugby World Cup but were far from impressive in a 35-0 victory over Russia in Kobe on Thursday.For all Ireland, the victims of a shock 19-12 defeat by hosts Japan last weekend, had made 11 changes, the fact it took them more an hour to secure a bonus point against a gutsy but limited Russia side would have been a cause for concern.Victory also came at a cost.Flyhalf Joey Carbery withdrew from his bench role shortly before kick-off with an a longstanding ankle problem, while an injury-hit Ireland saw number eight Jordi Murphy, who only arrived a few days ago after Jack Conan was ruled out, go off before half-time.The result was rarely in doubt, with Rob Kearney scoring the first of Ireland’s five tries 90 seconds into the match.Peter O’Mahony and Rhys Ruddock also crossed Russia’s line in the opening period with Jonathan Sexton, captaining Ireland for the first time, after the star fly-half missed the Japan loss with a thigh injury, converting all three tries.But Ireland’s display was not akin to their 62-12 thrashing of Russia at the 2011 World Cup or indeed reigning champions New Zealand’s 63-0 rout of Canada on Wednesday.Instead this performance suggested Ireland, who could face either the All Blacks or South Africa in the quarter-finals should they beat Samoa in their concluding Pool A game on October 12, have work to do if they are to capture a maiden world title and become the first side to lift the Webb Ellis Cup after losing a group-stage match.Being ‘nilled’ was tough on Russia, who again posed problems as they had done in 30-10 and 34-9 defeats by Japan and Samoa respectively.It looked as if Ireland might be eyeing a rout when Kearney scored scored under the closed roof of the Kobe Misaki Stadium before two minutes were on the clock.Second row Jean Kleyn’s clever inside pass released Kearney and, with centre Bundee Aki running a decoy line, the veteran fullback carved his way round Russia left wing Denis Simplikevich from 40 metres out.Sexton, one of the world’s leading goal-kickers when fully fit, made light of a difficult conversion.But Russia, led by Dublin-educated fullback Vasily Artemyev, harried Ireland with good use of the Garryowen — the name given to high kicks in rugby union in honour of the Irish club that pioneered the tactic.When Ireland, who started this tournament as the world’s top-ranked side, returned to Russia’s 22, however, they had their second try in the 13th minute with Sexton’s clever grubber kick through the defence allowing onrushing flanker O’Mahony to score by the posts.To make matters worse for Russia, centre Kirill Golosnitskiy, desperately trying to cover, slammed into a post protector and was carried off on a stretcher.Russia were forced into a huge defensive effort in near their own line and lost lock Bogdan Fedotko to a yellow card in the 34th minute.Moments later, Ireland’s pressure told when blindside flanker Ruddock powered over for a try.Yet Ireland failed to make the most of their man advantage either side of half-time, although Russia fly-half Ramil Gaisin was unable to reward good work by his forwards when he pushed a long-range penalty wide.Ireland eventually raised their game in the 62nd minute with a rare backline move.Replacement Jack Carty’s chip ahead was regathered by Keith Earls and he sent in fellow wing Andrew Conway, whose uncle Mark McDermott is a member of Russia’s coaching staff, from near half-way.And four minutes from time Ringrose went in for a fifth try that flattered Ireland.For more sport your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.
As South Africa’s Springbok rugby team vies for victory in the 2019 Rugby World Cup tournament, it is worthwhile to reflect on the historical substance of sports unity since 1994.South Africa held its first democratic elections in 1994. In mainstream history and school textbooks this represented a turning point that brought unity to South African society. But the danger of honing in on a single event blurs the broader social and political landscape that led up to the 1994 moment and subsequent developments.More directly, Walter Mignolo, a prominent scholar of decolonial theory, reminded his audience at a recent conference that when the colonised take over the state, past complexities can be reproduced without question. The result is that power relations that favour the privileged remain intact.Since 1994 South Africans have been constantly bombarded with the much publicised words of Nelson Mandela:“Sport has the power to change the world; it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite like little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there only was despair.”But criticism against the notion that “sport has the power to unite like little else does” has become unpopular and has, to borrow from Neville Alexander, scored a duck or very low innings in post-Apartheid society.South Africans no longer, as they did prior to 1994, dare speak truth to power. Instead there is silence about racism and class divides in sport and almost a denial that there was vicious racism in sport prior to 1994.This raises the question: Does the nature, basis and purpose of unity in the pre-1990 anti-apartheid sports movement correspond with developments after 1994?To answer these questions it’s useful to consider two types of unity – principled and ad hoc. Principled unity endeavours to unite people around a common outlook and how they intend achieving their common goal. Clarity of ideas and practice is crucial. With ad hoc unity one may discard their allies once the short term goals have been achieved.I argue that the sports unity that was achieved in South Africa during the last decade of the 20th century was an ad hoc or temporary tactical unity.The historyAfter the unbanning of the anti-apartheid political organisations in 1990 a new sport political elite emerged. It was made up of the apartheid sport federations and individuals from within the sport liberation movement. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the new elite favoured the establishment or apartheid sports federations. Lured by the prospects of jobs, and the high life, former outspoken anti-apartheid sports critics began promoting unity while side-lining the South African Council on Sport. This was the internal non-racial anti-Apartheid sports organisation.And when some officials of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee returned to South Africa from exile, they sought the political support of the establishment sports federations, ignoring the South African Council on Sport. Not surprisingly, the sports moratorium was lifted without the South African Council on Sport’s consent.What followed was a scenario of extraordinary unity sports ventures. For example, South Africa participated in the 1992 Olympic Games and organised a cricket tour to India with the Apartheid government still in power.In this period (1992-1994), the country was represented solely by players from apartheid sport federations. National and provincial non-racial school sport federations were abandoned while white school sport derbies continued and thrived.Although it was clear to many, nobody dared to state that the unified sports teams were nothing more than apartheid teams playing under the banner of a yet to be democratic sport structure.Many South Africans were lulled into believing that white people, who had benefited from apartheid sport, would be willing to share their gains in meaningful ways with sports structures of the non-racial movement.What the South African Council on Sport demanded was a moratorium on international sports contacts until development at grassroots level had reached a satisfactory level. But many activists capitulated and gave in to the demands of the new sport political elite for international participation under new unified sports federations.Bitter fruitSouth Africans are reaping the effects of this ad-hoc sports unity. School sports in the townships, the historically racially segregated areas of black working classes, are either non-existent or at an extremely low level, while middle to high fee-paying schools offer learners a variety of sports opportunities. For black students to achieve sport success, they have to attend middle to high fee-paying schools.It is therefore not surprising that the vast majority of first team players (black and white) in the Protea cricket and netball teams come from these schools. The same applies to the Springbok rugby team.There is no sports organisation outside government that speaks on behalf of the poor and marginalised communities and their sports structures and organisations.The type of unity that was forged between sports organisations in the 1990’s has inevitably meant that there’s no urgency about addressing social inequality in society.It is wasteful energy to seek out opportunistic racist culprits and collaborators to blame for the current state of inertia in sport within the country’s economically poor areas. What is needed now is a principled sports unity that is forged from grassroots upwards to national level. Sports clubs need to be formed for purposes of healthy participation, enjoyment and competition at all levels.In addition, sports clubs need to become part of critically-minded social movements that deliberately downplay virtues of excessive monetary gain and the ‘win at all costs’ approach. This is nothing less than a call for a new progressive sports movement that works for equality and peace based on mass participation and social justice.Otherwise, 25 years down the line South Africans will still be in search of a sports unity that is both principled and practical.Francois Cleophas, Senior Lecturer in Sport History, Stellenbosch UniversityThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
At the end of last year on this very same page, I annoyed a reader by saying Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ 50% winning record after his first season in charge should be seen as our rugby cup being half-full and not half-empty. This notion was derided on the letters page because 50% isn’t a great pass-rate. That was never in doubt. It was a mere case of me stressing that Erasmus had done much more good than bad in a short space of time despite his record card showing seven wins and seven losses even though it didn’t seem like…
The term “Old School” was never far from anyone’s lips during the fourth day of the second Test between the Proteas and England at Newlands on Monday.In an era where attention-starved cricket consumers want endless entertainment, this series has already been refreshingly old-fashioned.Indeed, it’s all been about grit, discipline and determination.South Africa still can’t say they’re in a position of safety, but they certainly can argue that their chances of survival going into the final day look less bleaker, ending on 126/2 in a mammoth chase of 438.Much of that fight was down to the dogged Pieter Malan.The Cobras opener showcased all the strengths that has made him such a successful player on the franchise circuit in his unbeaten 63 off 193 deliveries.Malan is a man who can bat in a bubble – though it’s felt like a bomb shelter here – and his hand here has been perfect – the Proteas’ batting line-up remains starved of confidence and that tends to make any unit lose wickets even when a pitch isn’t all that treacherous.The 30-year-old illustrated one can have a balance, where grim defence is mixed with a steady gathering of runs.He only hit two fours, one of them off the first ball of the final innings, before settling in and making England doubt if this surface will give them enough to force a win.Malan received good support in a 71-run opening stand with Dean Elgar (34), who’ll argue he was unlucky to be given out caught behind off the part-time leg-spin of Joe Denly after DRS showed a faint, maybe even dodgy little spike on Ultra-Edge.Cobras teammate Zubayr Hamza looked destined to carry on the fight with him on the final day, but he was undone by the indomitable James Anderson, who found the edge with a beauty, one that just managed to reverse enough.It was a breakthrough that will embolden the visitors.England dominated for most of the day, with their own old-schooler – 24-year-old Dom Sibley – crafting a maiden Test century on the back of neglected values such as patience.His unbeaten 133 off 311 deliveries was well deserved.But the right-hander also had it quite easy later on as the South African attack looked alarmingly flat.It allowed Ben Stokes to delight a healthy crowd with a swashbuckling 75 off just 47 deliveries, thoroughly demoralising the home side in the field.For more sport your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.
Two of South Africa’s Olympic medal hopefuls remain confident of challenging for podium places at the Tokyo Games, despite the showpiece being postponed until next year.The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) welcomed the decision on Tuesday after the International Olympic Committee and the local organising committee announced that the Games would be held in 2021 due to coronavirus concerns.“Due to the restrictions in travelling and cancellation of most of the qualification events, it was already proving a challenge for our potential Olympians and Paralympians to qualify and train adequately in preparation of the Games,” Sascoc said.African 100m champion Akani Simbine, who reached the short sprint final at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was pleased a decision had been made, four months ahead of the Games.He was nonetheless disappointed to have the standard four-year cycle extended.“I’m happy the Games are postponed because this has been a year of uncertainty and we can’t really get the right training in with all the disturbances we’ve had around the coronavirus,” Simbine said.“But I’m also pretty sad about it because this was the year we were all building up to, and now we have to wait another year.“That wasn’t part of our plans, but now we need to change around and make sure we are ready for next year.”Fellow sprinter Wayde van Niekerk, who broke the 400m world record to win gold in Rio four years ago, admitted he was relieved by the decision.“I try and see the positive in it,” said Van Niekerk, who was still on the comeback trail after recovering from a serious knee injury.“I see it as more time to prepare, more time to work, and more time to invest in my career.“Tokyo is another stepping stone to the entire legacy I want to leave behind, so this gives me more time to strengthen myself so I can be in even better shape for the Olympic Games.“So as much as it is a bit of a downer not having it this year, it is still happening and it’s going to be another opportunity for us to do our best and to showcase our talent.”For more sport your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.
Barbados fast bowler Roach reached the landmark when he had England’s Chris Woakes playing-on during the second day of the third Test at Old Trafford on Saturday.Despite Roach’s eventual return of 4-72, England still made 369 in their first innings, thanks mainly to tailender Stuart Broad’s dashing 62.And at stumps, the West Indies had slumped to 137-6, a deficit of 232 runs, to give England the edge in the deciding match of a three-Test series currently all square at 1-1.But the 32-year-old Roach was understandably proud of his achievement in becoming the first West Indies bowler since Curtly Ambrose 26 years ago to take 200 Test wickets.“I guess I had that landmark on my mind a little bit too much, I had a few restless nights,” Roach, who amazingly went wicketless when the West Indies beat England in the opening match of this series, told the BBC.“It’s good to get past that barrier now and see how many more I can get. 300 would be great.“I’ll work hard to get there and we’ll see how many I can go past 300,” added Roach, now in his 59th Test following a debut in 2009.Roach was initially an express quick, capable of 90 mph bouncers.But his career started to take a different direction in 2014 when he was involved in a car crash in Barbados after suffering shoulder and ankle injuries either side of that incident.Struggling to regain speed, Roach became increasingly expensive and was dropped by the West Indies for 18 months.But he was recalled for the last tour of England three years ago, and since then he has become an effective performer, with his use of the crease and greater movement through the air and off the seam compensating for a decline in raw speed.Since 2017, he has taken 79 wickets in 22 Tests at a miserly average of under 23 apiece.– ‘Relentless’ England –But whereas the likes of Ambrose found themselves operating on helpful home surfaces in attacks featuring fellow great fast bowlers such as Malcolm Marshall and Courtney Walsh, Roach has had nothing like the same quality of support at a time when Caribbean pitches increasingly favouring spin.England’s Stuart Broad celebrates dismissing West Indies’ Roston Chase in the third Test at Old Trafford . POOL/AFP/Martin RickettAnother sign of changing times is that when the West Indies last won a Test at Old Trafford 32 years ago, in a crushing innings and 156-run success that featured Marshall’s second-innings 7-22, they had a four-man pace attack while England fielded two spinners.Fast forward to 2020 and roles are reversed, with England fielding a seam bowling quartet of James Anderson, Broad, Jofra Archer and Woakes, while the West Indies play two spinners in Rahkeem Cornwall and Roston Chase.At stumps on Saturday both Anderson and Broad, with over 1,000 Test wickets between them, had each taken 2-17.And whereas the West Indies once enjoyed an enviable depth of seam bowling, England now have the likes of Mark Wood and Sam Curran waiting in the wings“I think what you want to try and avoid is four seamers that all do exactly the same thing,” said Broad.“Whereas this seam attack really does have a difference in line of attack, seam and swing and wobble.“It’s quite relentless.”
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org After being out of the country for a couple of weeks, I was glad to hear that the Jazz had signed Deron Williams to a long-term deal and traded Jason Hart, disheartened to discover the Yankees are the hottest team in baseball and shocked to see that Real Salt Lake is actually in first place …When you check out the sports pages in Great Britain, you’ll find no baseball or American football or summer league NBA basketball. The main sports in the U.K. are soccer, rugby, golf and cricket. I’ll never understand the appeal of cricket, just as the Brits will never understand our love of baseball. At least in baseball, the players have color on their uniforms and the games usually are finished within three or four hours, instead of going on all day, for several days. I swear England played a cricket match with South Africa that went on the entire time I was in the country …The TV there is not much better. Of the 10 or so stations we received, three were sports channels, but nothing was interesting aside from British Open golf. Actually one channel, for some reason, had nightly coverage of NFL football, but that is pretty boring this time of year …Well, there is the daily Brett Favre news. As Karl Malone would say, Brett Favre gotta do what Brett Favre gotta do. Unfortunately Favre’s legacy is losing some of its luster because of his inability to move on with life. Even diehard Packer fans are unhappy with his decision to keep playing after tearfully calling it quits earlier this year. Unfortunately he may join the ranks of Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath and Joe Montana as legendary quarterbacks who left their careerlong teams for another and then were only a shadow of their former selves …So Real goes into tonight’s game with Toronto in first place. What is the sports world coming to? I just hope it isn’t a bad omen that their first-place record is 6-6-6 …It’s sad that the WNBA gets more publicity in the past five days than in the past five years thanks to a big brawl that broke out in the Detroit-New York game and because 50-year-old Nancy Lieberman signed a seven-day contract. What? The WNBA still exists? …I see where Utah guard Tyler Kepkay got off five shots in five minutes against Team USA Friday night in Las Vegas, making one. I think it’s terrific that Kepkay made the Canadian Olympic team and that he seems to have substantially improved his game since last season. However, he won’t be playing point guard very long for the Utes if he averages a shot a minute …It looks like Utah’s Carlos Boozer may be the end-of-the-bench player for the U.S. team. He played just eight minutes, the least of any American against Canada, although he did play decently, with four rebounds, two blocked shots and a basket in his short stint …On the other hand, Deron Williams played 21 minutes and scored 14 points and handed out five assists against Canada and looks like he may split time with Chris Paul, who had 11 points and eight assists, as the backup point guard. But come on, shouldn’t one of them be starting instead of the aging Jason Kidd, who went scoreless with zero assists in 16 minutes …How does Greg Norman finish third in the British Open one week and then only a tie for fifth a week later at the Senior British Open? Also, how does Bruce Vaughan (who?) win the Senior British for his first check as a senior golfer?Utah’s Daniel Summerhays is discovering how tough professional golf can be. After climbing to the edge of the coveted top 25 on the Nationwide Tour, Summerhays has missed five straight cuts. The last one, in Columbus, Ohio, was particularly painful, because it was the tournament he won last year as an amateur and after he birdied four of five holes, he bogeyed the last hole to miss the cut by one. And finally, I see where the NBA has filed for trademark rights to six possible nicknames for the Oklahoma City franchise formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics. They are Barons, Bison, Energy, Marshalls, Thunder and Wind. I’m not thrilled with any of them but worry about the latter nickname. I’m afraid what headline writers might do with that one, something like “Jazz pass Wind in Northwest standings.”
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