Olympic Qualifier Team Announced
There were no surprises in the selection of the SPAR South African Women’s Hockey Team for the upcoming African Olympic Games qualifier, which is largely unchanged after reaching the final of the Four Nations Tournament in Ireland recently.
The South African squad stayed on in Dublin for two more tests against Ireland after losing the Four Nations final to a deserving Germany, of which the first was drawn 1-all, with South Africa winning the second 3-1.
Most of the players selected for the qualifiers planned for Nairobi, in Kenya from July 14 to 22, also took part in the Festival of Hockey in Stellenbosch, during January.
The team presents a balance between youth and experience, with captain Marsha Marescia able to call on the experience of players like vice captain Jen Wilson, Kate Hector, Sharne Bailey (nee Wehmeyer) and Tarryn Bright.
The only change is the addition of newcomer Ilse Davids in place of Kim Hubach, and South Africa are favourites to finish tops in the Olympic Qualifier also featuring Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
Convener of Selectors Adele Madsen says it is important to win the tournament convincingly, as they have to convince the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) that the women’s hockey team will be a truly competitive unit at the Olympic Games in Beijing in August 2008.
“We don’t just want to squeak in,” said Madsen. “It’s about making a statement, and making sure that we are real contenders in Beijing.”
Good news for the team is that they have been invited to take part in a four-nations tournament also featuring Australia, China and Argentina in Beijing from August 6 to 13.
South Africa will hope to repeat their performance in a similar tournament in Athens during 2004, when they beat mighty Australia in the final.
Planned as part of China’s preparations for the Olympic Games next year, the tournament will be played at the Olympic Stadium, and will be used to test out the hockey facilities, including the fields, lights and watering systems.
President of the South African Hockey Association Dave Carr says it is an honour for South Africa to be invited to the tournament, considering the available pool of highly-rated teams.
The SPAR South African team:
Henna du Buisson
Marsha Marescia (captain)
Jen Wilson (vice-captain)