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‘Unicorn’ Hamilton bows head, raises fist to celebrate Styrian triumph

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SPIELBERG, Austria, Jul 12Lewis Hamilton raised a podium fist to salute the global anti-racism protests on Sunday as he celebrated his first win this season and the 85th of his career at the Styrian Grand Prix in a performance so dazzling that his Mercedes team boss described him as a “unicorn”.

In a gesture that recalled the action of Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games, Hamilton delivered an image and message that transcended the pre-race muddle offered by his sport when at least four drivers remained standing while others took a knee and some were absent.

For the second consecutive weekend, Hamilton had taken a knee wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt accompanied by others in ‘End Racism’ t-shirts.

However, television coverage of the drivers’ symbolic act of support for his sport’s anti-racism stance lasted only two seconds.

Instead of showing the drivers, the direction switched broadcast attention to a pre-planned aerial demonstration while, with a global audience tuning in, confusion reigned.

Hamilton, the sport’s only black race winner and champion, who had drawn attention to F1’s need for a smarter and more unified demonstration as with football and other sports, was not surprised or perturbed.

Instead, he heaped praise on his Mercedes team –Valtteri Bottas had finished second behind him in a solid one-two – for their on- and off-track excellence as they seek to add to their six-year dominance as champions and focus on developing diversity.

“The easiest thing is to lose focus, to ease up and lose determination,” he said after the race.

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“I don’t see this happening with this team. We are so united.

“You can see this on grid when all the team took a knee. I didn’t see it. I was told just before the race that they were going to do it.

“It’s not something I asked for, but it was a beautiful thing. It doesn’t take a lot to do and maybe its not changing the world, but it is hopefully changing perceptions and shifting ideals.”

After his masterful demonstration of wet weather driving in Saturday’s rain-hit qualifying session, Hamilton delivered a measured message on Sunday to drive within six wins of Michael Schumacher’s record and make his wider point.

“When he is in that space, he is just unbeatable,” said his Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in top-class motor racing. It’s like seeing a unicorn.”

Wolff added that the Mercedes team had all taken a knee, but none wished to judge others who did not.

“The team did it, but I think we have to be non-judgmental. None of the drivers standing are racist. We have to respect each point of view and I don’t want to judge what other people do.”

Hamilton attributed his victory to the team and hard work in preparation following the previous week’s disappointments at the Austrian Grand Prix.

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“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” he said.

“Last weekend was psychologically challenging. To have the penalties and be called to the stewards on the Sunday morning, just before the race, and to get a penalty there and then another one in the race. Its never easy.”

“But there’s nothing you can do about the past. All you can do is focus and channel your energy to the future.”

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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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