Caster Semenya leads explosive South Africa into Diamond League finals

Double Olympic champion set to make up for Wayde van Niekerk's absence 

There will be no Wayde van Niekerk at the IAAF Diamond League finals, but South Africa will have plenty of star power at the Diamond League finals in Zurich and Brussels.

Double Olympic 800m champion Caster Semenya headlines a list of six athletes representing the African nation at the two meets.

Earlier this season five-time Olympic medallist Justin Gatlin warned the athletics world to prepare for the South African explosion.

"I think you are going to be seeing these guys on the podium countless times over and over," the American said.

South Africa's long jump veteran Khotso Mokoena echoes this sentiment.

“The South African athletes are inspired, they want to be at the top of the world, at the top of the game," the Beijing 2008 silver medallist told the Olympic Channel.

"They have a chance to do it now before next year (World championships) and Tokyo 2020.”

Caster Semenya the star attraction

Semenya is undoubtedly the most decorated of them all.

The 27-year-old is expected to retain her Diamond League crown in the 800m in Zurich, before challenging for a second title in the 1500m a day later in Brussels.

Semenya hasn't been beaten over 800m since the 2015 World Champs in Beijing, but can expect her sternest challenge yet on 30 August.

Olympic silver medallist Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi actually leads the Diamond standings having competed in more race this season, and will sense an opportunity to knock Semenya off her perch.

It will be a different story in the 1500m.

Despite winning the Commonwealth Games and setting a national record in Doha, Semenya will be an underdog over this distance in Brussels.

Ethiopia’s 1500m specialist Gudaf Tsegay and five-time world medallist Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands will be the favourites for the Diamond League trophy.

Luvo Manyonga the man to beat

World long jump champion Luvo Manyonga is South Africa's next best hope on paper for Diamond League glory.

The 27-year-old has dominated competition since his win at the London leg.

Manyonga has leaped over 8.50m in five meets this year, a statistic which has excited compatriot Mokoena, the first African man to clinch an Olympic medal in the event.

“Someone like Luvo has so much in him, he can jump much more than what he’s doing right now,” Mokoena said.

Manyonga missed out on the automatic qualification for September’s Intercontinental Cup after losing the African title to compatriot Ruswahl Samaai.

Samaai, another top talent from Africa's rising athletics powerhouse, will also be in the final in Zurich.

Simbine's time to shine

Commonwealth and African 100m champion Akani Simbine has been in sizzling form this year.

With a season best of 9.93 seconds, the Gauteng-born sprinter is the second fastest man in an exciting 100m line-up.

Simbine will have to be right at his best to beat a line-up featuring world leading-American Ronnie Baker, Christian Coleman and Great Britain’s Reece Prescod.

Outside bets?

Carina Horn qualified for the 100m courtesy of her joint-seventh place finish in the season's rankings.

The Durbanite ran 10.98 seconds in Doha to break her own South African record.

Horn will have to replicate this form if she is to stand any chance of causing an upset in Zurich, where Ivorian Marie-Josee Ta Lou will be the favourite.

Commonwealth 400m hurdles bronze medallist Wenda Nel completes South Africa's exciting contingent at the Diamond League finals.

The 30-year-old finished seventh on the standings and will be ecstatic with her qualification to the finals, having failed to progress from the semi-finals at Rio 2016.

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