Our top 5 sporting events of 2017

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2017 has been a busy year for South African sports fans. While the year isn’t finished yet we’ve been spoilt from January to December with great events and next week we see the start of the Momentum One Day Cup. Below we’ll list the highlights of the year for us and then attempt to rank them in a top 5, which may be quite difficult.

 

In January we attended the BMW SA Open at the Glendower Golf Course. You may remember the revival of SA golf from a spectators point of view with Ernie Els being able to get Rory Mcilroy to come play in the SA Open. The fairways were packed with local fans trailing the little Irish maestro from the first to the eighteenth hole, oohing and aahing every drive, chip and putt. In the end the world number two, and crowd favourite, fell to Graeme Storm in a play-off after both had finished on 18 under.

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Close up view of the 18th hole BMW SA Open © Marcel Sigg

The crowds had been entertained and the fairy tale story of Graeme Storm, who had lost his European Tour card only 4 months earlier only to get it back because a higher ranked player had to withdraw, grabbed the headlines but the little Irishman grabbed the hearts of South Africans. Four days of great golf showcasing a fantastic course to the world and a bunch of South Africans in the top 10 with Dean Burrmeister highest placed at 4th was a magnificent way to start the sporting year of 2017.

In March we were witness to the opening of The Base – Tango League. While not an international event or even on TV the Tango League, played on 5 Saturday’s throughout the year saw local indoor football teams coming together to do battle for huge adidas prizes and tickets to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

I wasn’t able to attend the final event in December due to other commitments but the football standards were improving at every subsequent tournament. Since football is my first love, being witness to such a great tournament and the format not to mention the incredible support given to the tournament by adidas I felt it deserved a mention in this list of great sporting events I have attended in 2017.

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Forest Run Ultra Trail Run, Vredefort Dome photo: Maggi van Rhyn

This year we also attended our fourth consecutive Forest Run, an ultra trail run currently held around the old mining village of Venterskroon in the Free State, the Vredefort Dome area offers a rather challenging hilly area with great views to enthusiastic trail runners who like longer distances than your average park runner (like me). The distances offered are 16km, 30km and 46km which are all far too long for me but offer fantastic views of the surroundings from high vantage points. Click on the link above to see our gallery from the event.

 

Hockey seems to dominate our calendar in 2017 with the IPT, FIH HWL and the PHL all finding a slot in our year. The PHL is great because I get to see a bunch of players I’ve gotten to know over the years of shooting hockey and have a quick chat with them while the Hockey World League was just next level in terms of the hockey on display.

The HWL tournament was an emotional rollercoaster for the SA teams with the women coming from behind on the brink of elimination to qualify for the finals in 2018. The men decided to take the harder route of qualifying through the Cup of Nations in Egypt later in the year.

 

For the first time I was able to shoot professional rugby at Loftus Versveld (home of the Bulls) and Ellis Park (home of the Lions). The Super Rugby season was disappointing for many SA fans with only one local team in contention at the sharp end of the tournament. I did get some photos of the team I have supported since the days of Naas though and while that is satisfying in itself, the Super Rugby Final 2017 will always be a special event for me.

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Bulls vs Hurricanes, Loftus Versveld 2017 © Marcel Sigg

Hosted by the awesome people at Ellis Park, we were hoping for a home win and personally, I think the Lions may have pulled it off if they had played with 15 players for the whole game. Nevertheless, a great sporting event to attend with a view second to none.

After shooting motorsport for close on 7 years I made the call to end my association with the sport at the end of 2016 after the local governing body (MSA) completely lost the plot with the accreditation costs. Unrealistic demands and general poor treatment of those of us who promote the sport on their behalf only helped me close that chapter more easily until our charity, the De Wildt Cheetah Centre, had their annual karting event at Zwartkops raceway in October.

I think this is the 7th or 8th year we are involved with the Centre’s fundraiser and as usual the event draws many enthusiastic entrants. This year we had a friend donate his aerial skills and fly a drone with permission from the track above the racers.

 

Later in the month I received a last minute invitation to attend what turned out to be a great event at Carnival City. The Monster Gymkhana Grid came to South Africa on the back of the WRC Cape Town event and brought some of it’s competitors along for the ride. If you’ve been alive in the 21st century you’re pretty much guaranteed to have heard of Ken Block and if not, YouTube will quickly educate you.

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Ken Block sits inside his Ford WRX car at Carnival City © Marcel Sigg

I had initially only planned to attend the media day but in the end stayed for all 4 days and made a bunch of new friends. The event was professionally run by Monster’s imported crew and they treated us like gold, putting on a spread for lunch and dinner as well as providing unlimited refreshments for all 4 days. Motorsport South Africa should pay close attention to these details on treating the media who generate content and promote the sport instead of trying to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

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National teammates Shelley Jones (St Lucia Lakers) & Lillian du Plessis (Madikwe Rangers) battling for possession of the ball

At the end of November we were back at the Randburg hockey astro for the second installment of the Premier Hockey League. The tournament was run over 3 weekends including a four day final’s weekend which stretched to Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the tournament was played in the middle of the rainy season and as a result we lost quite a few matches to the weather, including the ladies final which then had to be settled via a shoot-out.

In football we always say a penalty shootout is the worst possible way to settle a match but the show must go on when the TV cameras are rolling live footage. At least the men got to play their game and what a game it was for the Maropeng Cavemen. I haven’t seen any of this years TV footage but if it is anything like last year it is a World-class production and nothing less than expected from Supersport.

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Maropeng Cavemen captain Rassie Pieterse lifting the trophy in front of his jubilant teammates

So after all these highlights, let’s try rank them from 5 to 1 for 2017.

 

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Promotional poster at the Gymkhana Grid © Marcel Sigg

5. The Cheetah Karting charity event, a worthy cause, loads of fun people and a bunch of friends. This year we even got to drive in the Nissan GT-R and hopefully we’ll be doing something with the Sports Car division of Nissan in 2018 too.

4. BMW SA Open – it was really something to see the thousands of people who came out to witness Rory McIlroy playing at Glendower, not to mention the quality of golf on show. Phenomenal golf on display, well organised with the park and ride just an all round great start to the year.

3. PHL 2017 – I just enjoy this tournament, the lighting can be challenging as a photographer but the hockey has improved tremendously since the 2016 tournament, particularly in the ladies tournament.

2. Gymkhana Grid – you really want to have a look at the images and videos of this event if you missed it. Great example set for local motorsport body on how to run an event and treat media, let’s hope they take the lessons on board.

1. Super Rugby Final – this is probably the one and only time I will be able to photograph a match of this magnitude from the dead-ball line in South Africa unless John Mitchell manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat in Pretoria in the next few seasons.

 

The Momentum One Day series starts this week and the 2018 BMW SA Open is less than a month away, I hope to see you at a Sporting event/arena in the near future.

Tell us your favourite sports event of 2017 in the comments section below.

photos Marcel Sigg

 

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