For Haslam, qualifying is proving to be his boon and his bugbear if Assen and Monza are anything to go by, his impressive race pace unable to be put to good use in Italy. Nonetheless, he won't gamble in South Africa so, provided he can get to learn the circuit quickly, he will doubtless be up there again.
Sykes, meanwhile, has seen the Kyalami circuit having tested there last year, although on that occasion he sustained a foot injury. With consistency proving the cornerstone of his campaign this year, the time has come for the Yamaha rider to start eyeing that first podium with the team.
Over at Ten Kate Honda, Ryuichi Kiyonari and Jonathan Rea both gave the impression that the team are returning to some kind of prominence at Monza, with the former claiming two podiums and the latter a pair of top five finishes. Rea in particular performed well in testing at Kyalami, so after enjoying his best weekend of the season in Italy, a podium should be in the offing.
Elsewhere, Aprilia also performed well in South Africa, a prelude to what would prove to be impressive form during the first part of the 2009 season. In the hands of Max Biaggi, the RSV-4 has been a revelation, with bad luck preventing him from featuring higher than sixth in the current standings. Shinya Nakano was also quick during testing and, after a couple of anonymous rounds while he recovers from injury, he will be eager to get back to the form he showed at Qatar.
A key theme to the Kyalami weekend will be a return of old and new favourites, in place of a total of four riders who have chosen to sit out following accidents at Monza.
Chief amongst these is Fonsi Nieto, who makes a surprise return to the Suzuki team that let him go at the end of 2008 in place of Max Neukirchner. A great chance for the Spaniard to revisit some of the form that made him a race winner last season, a good performance here could see him in for the long stretch.
Elsewhere, Steve Martin makes his return to competition on the BMW S1000RR after Troy Corser took the late decision to sit out following his two crashes in Italy. The first time the Australian has competed since the end of 2007, he will at least have good experience of the bike having helped develop it for more than a year now.
Experienced rider Gregorio Lavilla also makes a welcome return to the Ducati fold as a replacement for Brendan Roberts at Guandalini Racing, while local rider Sheridan Morais brings one new face to the WSBK paddock having been drafted in to replace Makoto Tamada at Kawasaki.
The last time the World Superbike Championship visited South Africa, Troy Bayliss walked away a double winner – will his successor at Ducati complete a similar feat to pull away further from Spies in the standings…? Time will tell…
So, did you get it right - the four riders who competed at Kyalami in 2002? Noriyuki Haga, Ruben Xaus, Broc Parkes, Steve Martin and Gregorio Lavilla. Kudos to those of you with great memories!
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