WITH the Olympic Games in Beijing, China, only eight months away, the Spar South African women’s hockey team are stepping up their preparations for the four-yearly showpiece.
Having qualified as the African continent’s representatives for the Olympics next August, captain Marsha Marescia and the South African team will be busy in the New Year.
South Africa will play Ireland in four Test matches between January 12 and 19.
The first and third Tests will be played at Stellenbosch University’s Sports Centre and the second and fourth at Hartleyvale in Cape Town.
The Spar-sponsored SA team then travel to Argentina for a Four Nations tournament also involving Argentina, the U.S. and Germany from January 23 to 27.
“It’s wonderful to have these opportunities so early in the Olympic year,” SA coach Jenny King said yesterday.“I am also very pleased to have a Test series ahead of the tournament. A series gives us a chance to blood some of our younger players ahead of the Four Nations in Argentina.”
Ireland are ranked 14th in the world, two positions below South Africa, while the team will need to punch above their weight in Argentina. The hosts are ranked second in the world, behind the Netherlands, and Germany are ranked third. The U.S. are in 11th position.
“I think the United States are better than their ranking,” said King. “It is going to be a very tough tournament, which should bring out the best in us. We drew with Germany earlier this year, so we will be fairly confident, and we gave Argentina a good go when we played them in Beijing. Our aim is to reach the final.”
The selectors named two squads — one for the series against Ireland and the other for the tour to Argentina. However, there is only one change to the two squads, with Lisa-Marie Deetlefs replacing Louisa Moore for the trip to Argentina.
“Lisa-Marie has a bit of an ankle injury at the moment, so we want to give her time to heal completely,” said King. “We will also be without striker Shelley Russell, who has a back injury. We are giving her a break of six to eight weeks to recover completely so that she will be available for the Olympics in Beijing.
“We are also sad to be without Sharne Bailey, who is pregnant.”
While there are no KZN Midlands players and just one KZN Raiders (Durban) player in experienced striker Jen Wilson in the national side, goalkeeper Sanani Mangisa (Epworth) and Moore (Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School) learnt their hockey in the province, as did captain Marsha Marescia and fellow midfielder Kate Hector.
For Ireland series in Western Cape: Tarryn Bright, Lenise Marais, Cindy Brown, Henna du Buisson, Farah Fredericks, Kate Hector, Taryn Hosking, Mariette Rix, Vida Ryan, Vidette Ryan, Kathleen Taylor (all Western Province); Marsha Marescia (capt), Fiona Butler (both Southern Gauteng); Marcelle Keet, Sanani Mangisa, Louisa Moore (all Northern Blues); Jen Wilson (KZN Raiders); Lesley-Ann George (North West).
• Lisa-Marie Deetlefs (Southern Gauteng) replaces Louisa Moore for Argentina trip.