Aphelele Fassi is deserving of the opportunity to claim the Springbok number 15 jersey, and it is one of my sporting wishes in 2022 that the coaches honour his talent and form with consistent selection, writes Mark Keohane.
As someone who just loves playing sport, watching sport and writing about sport as a career, here’s my five-strong wish list for 2022. There is no order of preference as if any one of these five things happen, it will make for one heck of a sporting year.
And if all five happen … Well, then I will forever be indebted to the sporting gods.
If you have followed my writing for the last year or 30 years, you will know that cricket is my first love, rugby is the main sport I write about, soccer is another I follow intensely, but there isn’t a sport I don’t enjoy and over the years I have come to understand North American sports more and appreciate the magnificent athletes that determine the popularity of each of these codes.
I am privileged to write about sport and to tell the story of those sporting people we idolize, condemn, love and loathe but ultimately respect.
I was first published as a 15 year-old in my local community newspaper writing about sport, and it has been one incredible journey over the last 38 years in getting to travel to 40-plus countries and report from some of the most iconic sporting stadia and arenas.
When it comes to soccer, there is Lionel Messi and then there are the rest, so it is only appropriate that I start my wish list with the magical Messi.
- Aphelele Fassi to start at fullback for the Springboks
This surely has to be the season where the Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber and the National Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus give Fassi the opportunity to translate his domestic potency onto the international stage. Fassi in 2021 played two Test matches for the Springboks. He started on the wing in both and scored two sensational tries. He has so much quality and it was one of the biggest surprises and – for me – disappointments – that Fassi did not play in the Rugby Championship against Australia or New Zealand and did not get a place in the Test 23 in any of the three end of year Test matches. Fassi has something very special about him and 2022 is the year that the Bok coaching leadership must unleash his talent on the world.
2. Lionel Messi doing the club and country double
It would be the ultimate double for me as a Messi disciple for the magician to win the Champions League with Paris St-Germain and then go to Qatar and win the World Cup with Argentina. It is more probable that Messi could achieve champion status with PSG than with his country, given Argentina’s international record at World Cups since Messi turned professional. Argentina haven’t won a World Cup with Messi, but the fact that they have come so close is because of Messi, who earlier this year was named the planet’s best footballer for a record seventh time. Messi has had an indifferent start to his PSG career, which I believe will be short-lived, both the indifference and his time at PSG. He has been fantastic in the Champions League and a spectator in what foreigners call the farmers league, which is the French top league. He was brilliant for Argentina in ensuring they won the Copa America for the first time in 28 years.
- Tyson Fury to knock out Anthony Joshua
I love the Gypsy King and he has been brilliant for heavyweight boxing. His trilogy against Deontay Wilder was WILD, WICKED and BRUTAL. The third fight had it all and the manner in which Fury destroyed Wilder was emphatic. He is the best heavyweight champion of his time and among the best to ever wear the most prized belts in boxing. Anthony Joshua has been more pretender than contender, but the romantic in me wants the fight to happen where Fury shows up every one of Joshua’s inadequacies as a boxer. My wish is for the fight to happen before the end of 2022 and for Fury to knock him out, as he did with Wilder.
- Temba Bavuma to score more Test hundreds
Few cricketers in this country get it as tough as Temba Bavuma and his haters always default to the fact that he still has scored just the one Test century, which is one more than they all have. Bavuma, in the first two Tests against India, was South Africa’s best batsman and he showed such composure and presence at Centurion and at the Wanderers. I have followed Bavuma’s career since he was a schoolboy, having worked alongside his father Vuyo Bavuma in our early days at the Cape Argus in Cape Town. If my wish on (Tyson) Fury can only come to fruition at the end of the year, then Temba getting a hundred could happen in Cape Town as early as next year. He scored a beauty of a century against England at Newlands and at what is very much his spiritual cricketing home, it would be joyous for him to add another hundred to his Test resume.
- Rafa Nadal to be the first men’s player to get to 21 Grand Slam single titles
If you love tennis, as I do, then you have to be awed by Roger Feder, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic and what each of these on-court geniuses have achieved in winning 20 Grand Slam men’s single’s titles each. For a decade it was Roger v Rafa and then it became Roger v Novak and Novak v Rafa. All three are brilliant, but with the Fed Express now 40 years-old and injured and Djokovic not guaranteed playing in the Australian Open because of his refusal to get vaccinated, I’d so want to see the street fighter and clay-court master Rafa Nadal conquer all-comers in Melbourne. Nadal’s knees threatened to give way a decade ago, but he keeps on going, with such passion, so precision and such humility. This is another of my sporting wishes that could come to fruition within the first week of February.