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Controversial VAR debuts in AFCON

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The VAR monitor that did not work at the CAF Champions League final in Tunisia two months ago, leading to the match being abandoned © AFP / FETHI BELAID

CAIRO, Egypt, Jul 9 – VAR, the video review system that sparked chaotic scenes at the CAF Champions League final two months ago, will make its Africa Cup of Nations debut on Wednesday for Benin’s last eight clash with Senegal in Egypt.

The technology is being used from the quarter-finals of Africa’s premier football competition, with officials hoping the drama during some previous VAR matches in the continent can be avoided.

“VAR requires not only equipment, but also expertise,” stressed CAF secretary general Moaz Hajji.

“Everything is ready for its implementation.”

The technology was supposed to be used in the second leg of the CAF Champions League final between Esperance Tunis and Wydad Casablanca in Tunisia, but malfunctioned before kick-off.

Wydad refused to continue playing when a disallowed equaliser could not be reviewed, despite the team having reportedly been told before the return match VAR would be unavailable.

After a 90-minute delay, an Esperance team leading 2-1 overall were awarded the match only for the organisers to later order a replay at a neutral ground.

No date or venue has been announced amid hints from both clubs they will take legal action over the decision.

In the first leg of the 2018 Champions League final between Cairo club Al Ahly and Esperance, the Algerian referee used VAR to award two hotly disputed goals.

Replays suggested Walid Azaro dived to win a penalty and the Ahly forward later deliberately tore his shirt to gain another spot-kick.

Ahly won the match, but finished overall losers after a heavy second-leg defeat.

– Suspension dropped –

Eight weeks ago Egyptian referee Gehad Grisha was handed a six-month ban after making two VAR calls that angered Moroccan club Renaissance Berkane in the second-tier Confederation Cup final.

The suspension was dropped on appeal, allowing Grisha to be part of the referees’ panel for the Cup of Nations in his homeland.

Ghana captain Andre Ayew celebrates a goal before it was disallowed in an Africa Cup of Nations last-16 match against Tunisia © AFP / Giuseppe CACACE

Benin coach Michel Dussuyer favours VAR: “I hope it will work and that there will be no technical problems. The use is a plus for football because it corrects injustices.”

Senegal defender Salif Sane is “not a big fan of VAR, but we are going to play our football and show who Senegal are”.

VAR intervenes when a referee makes a clear and obvious error regarding a goal, a penalty, a straight red card or a mistaken identity.

Ghana wished the system had been used in a second round match against Tunisia this week that they lost on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Black Stars captain Andre Ayew had a goal disallowed because the referee said team-mate Thomas Partey had handled the ball when it had actually struck his chin.

“We could have had a different result,” lamented Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah, “but VAR will help African football a lot.”

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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.

“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”

With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.

There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Rugby Championship

There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.

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That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.

South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.

“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.

‘Seven Nations’

Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?

Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.

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England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.

Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.

Super Rugby

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Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.

The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.

Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.

South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.

‘Pro16’

Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.

“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.

While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.

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Currie Cup

The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.

First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.

But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections

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By NATION REPORTER

Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.

The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.

Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.

Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.

Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.

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