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South Africa's sporting champions focus on cricket

Springboks captain John Smit feels its a great opportunity for South Africa, it will show the public what talent is there ans also show case the diversity in South Africa

South Africa's sporting champions focus on cricket - Cricket News
ICC Champions Trophy.
South Africa is a nation of champions and many of the country's sporting heroes will have one eye on the cricket over the next 14 days as the top eight-ranked sides in the world do battle for the ICC Champions Trophy.

Springboks captain John Smit who recently led his side to victory in the Tri-Nations, not to mention the IRB Rugby World Cup in 2007, is delighted South Africa was chosen as the venue for another prestigious sporting event.

"This has been an incredible sporting year for South Africa and now it's cricket's turn to host a global sporting showcase with the ICC Champions Trophy coming to South Africa in the wake of the British and Irish Lions tour and the FIFA Confederations Cup," said the 31-year-old prop forward.

"The Springboks very closely follow the fortunes of our cricket and soccer teams and we'll be cheering the Proteas every step of the way. Graeme Smith has an outstanding collection of talent at his disposal and after their successes of the past 12 months, I know they'll be looking to start their new season with a bang.

"The fact that the ICC has chosen South Africa to step in and host the tournament is a great feather in the cap for our country as well, and proves once again what an outstanding venue South Africa is when it comes to hosting the world's most prestigious sports events," added Smit.

Tickets for some of the matches at the Wanderers and Centurion are still available from Computicket outlets all over South Africa as well as the venue ticket offices.

Another champion to offer his support to the event and the Proteas is swimming world record-holder Cameron van der Burgh, gold medalist in the 50m breaststroke and bronze medalist in the 100m breaststroke at the FINA World Championships in Rome last month.

"I think most South African sports people like to support each other. Coming from an individual sport like swimming, that's very important," said the 21-year-old Pretorian, who will be attending the opening match of the tournament at Centurion on Tuesday. 

"Events like the Champions Trophy are great because they show the public what talent is out there. We don't have many big events like that in swimming in South Africa where people can see the best in the world in action. It's one thing watching it on TV, but it's so much better to be able to watch it live.

"I think South Africa's chances are pretty good – I'll definitely be supporting them. I've been told Graeme Smith is my look-alike so I'll be hoping he keeps our image high," he joked.

For the first time the ICC CT will feature only the top eight sides in the world in the only global multi-team 50-over-a-side tournament between the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup in the Caribbean and the next edition of that event, in the Asian sub-continent in two years' time.

Total prize money for this event is up to US$4million – four times what it was in 2006 – with the winning team pocketing a cool US$2million.

The action begins on Tuesday (22 September) with the Proteas in action against Sri Lanka in a day-night encounter at Centurion (the location for the women's world cup final of 2005) and it will end with a day-night final at the same venue on Monday 5 October.

South Africa women's hockey captain Marsha Marescia has also offered her support to the event. "I'm going to watch South Africa against New Zealand on Thursday and I'm really looking forward to it," said Marescia.

"With so much history and diversity in our country, I think it's very important that the national teams support each other. I think it's fantastic that we're hosting an event like the Champions Trophy which gives the public a chance to see all these top teams," she added.

Soccer star Matthew Booth of Bafana Bafana and Mamelodi Sundowns played first-team cricket at school and will be glued to the cricket over the next couple of weeks.

"During the Confederations Cup we saw a lot of new faces in the stadiums and I think with big events like that, and the ICC Champions Trophy, the public really get behind the team. Everyone likes to win – it doesn't matter what sport it is," said the 32-year-old centre-half.

"We're the favourites to win it and playing at home which makes a huge difference – that's what we experienced in the Confederations Cup.

"I think that without a doubt, events like the Champions Trophy are a showcase for the country and just add to the numerous events that we have hosted successfully. I think the football officials will be watching very closely and maybe learning from this ahead of hosting the biggest sports event in the world next year."

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