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Lungi Ngidi And Rising Black Excellence In SA Sport 🇿🇦

Ngidi is proving to be a shining example of the black excellence that former minister of sport Fikile Mbalula envisioned.

19/01/2018 12:08 SAST | Updated 19/01/2018 13:27 SAST
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Lungi Ngidi.

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It has been 24 years since South Africa became a democratic country, and 27 since we returned to international sport after the release of Nelson Mandela heralded the dismantling of apartheid.

In this period, we have had our fair share of national glory and pain in sports – but the perennial holy grail has been effective transformation.

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This week saw 21-year-old golden boy Lungi Ngidi being awarded man of the match for his remarkable bowling display against India that sealed his debut Test series in South Africa's favour.

It's clear that Ngidi is a shining example of black excellence, as envisioned by former minister of sport Fikile Mbalula.

Quotas in SA sport were introduced to diversify it; to allow athletes that are not white the opportunity to shine in their respective codes. In 2014, Mbalula announced a 60:40 quota system to be enforced in sports teams to promote the inclusion of black players.

Proteas

But Rome wasn't built in a day, and the 60:40 quota system is a gradual process that will take time, even years, to be fully implemented and for the national sporting codes to be truly transformed.

Read: Proteas, Springboks Or Bafana Bafana -- Who's Actually Succeeding In Transformation

There has been criticism of sporting quotas – claims that selection on merit inevitably suffers – which players as far back as Makhaya Ntini and as recent as Kagiso Rabada have effectively disproven. Now Ngidi has joined their ranks.

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In the past decade, there has been major progress, and there are now several shining examples of black excellence breaking down barriers on all fronts, with more arriving every year.

Here are some prime examples:

1. Lungi Ngidi – cricket

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From the start of the second Test on January 13, the right-arm fast bowler established himself as SA's hottest young prospect after Kagiso Rabada. At only 21 but with a super-fast arm, he delivered a remarkable man-of-the-match performance with debut figures of 6/39 in the second innings.

Born in Durban in 1996, Ngidi achieved his first success in schoolboy cricket for Hilton College in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

Read: A Star Is Born – Lungi Ngidi Wraps Up India In Remarkable Debut

He played provincial cricket in every age group from U-13 upwards, and after matriculating, he played his university cricket for Tuks in Pretoria. He has appeared for KZN-Inland U-19s and SA U-19s, as well as in first-class cricket for Northerns and Titans.

He bowls at 140km/h and above, and seems to be equally comfortable opening the bowling or mopping up the tail. He has already convinced South Africans on social media that he is the real deal.

2. Caster Semenya – athletics

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One of Athletics South Africa's triumphs of transformation is the career of Caster Semenya. South Africa is on the verge of global athletics domination, and Caster is our not-at-all-secret weapon in the women's 800m.

Read: Caster Vs Serena For Laureus Sportswoman Of The Year

The three-time 800m world champion is among the 2018 nominees for the prestigious Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year award – nominated alongside Serena Williams and other world-famous names.

Sportswomen of the year

Semenya made double history in 2017, when she scooped the gold medal in the 800m at the IAAF Championship in London. She defended her title for the second time and ran her lifetime best, with a time of 1:55.16s.

It was her second medal in the 2017 championship – a bronze in the women's 1,500m was her first – but her first gold. And it was for the same race in which she took gold in the IAAF World Championship both in 2009 in Berlin, and in 2013 in Daegu.

Those aren't the only 800m gold medals under her belt; she has another from the 2008 World Junior Championships, one from 2015 All Africa Games, and another from the 2016 African Championships (along with golds in the 1,500m and the 4x400m relay at that meeting) – so she reigns supreme.

3. Kagiso Rabada – cricket

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Kagiso Rabada has surged into the upper echelons of cricket. "KG" made not only himself, but his whole country proud, when he was named the world's number-one test bowler earlier this month.

South Africans will tell you that it was inevitable –– if you have any doubts about KG's talent or his status as a national treasure, you should read this:

Read: 5 Things That Make Kagiso Rabada A National Treasure

By clinching the world number-one spot, Rabada became only the seventh South African to top the ICC Test bowling rankings after Aubrey Faulkner, Hugh Tayfield, Peter Pollock, Shaun Pollock, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander. That's an impressive group to be in by anyone's standards.

4. Wayde van Niekerk – athletics

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(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

With Usain Bolt out of the picture since his retirement, this is the perfect opportunity for Wayde van Niekerk to begin his reign as the next global athletics star.

Read: 5 Reasons Why Wayde Van Niekerk Is Becoming A National Treasure

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He's already the greatest men's 400m athlete the world has seen to date. South Africans are becoming accustomed to Van Niekerk snatching up gold in every race he competes in – he flies the flag high, and continues to personify the rewards of training hard.

Read: The BBC Downplayed Wayde Van Niekerk's Medals And South Africans Were Having None Of It

5. Luvo Manyonga – athletics

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In 2017, when he was crowned SA Sportsman of the Year, Manyonga had already overcome a devastating crystal meth ("tik") habit to win a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the men's long jump.

Later in 2017, he went one better and won gold in the IAAF Championships in London, becoming the new king of the long jump.