South Africa have named the 12 players who form their World Cup squad and from which they will select their final 8 players. The squad is very similar to the men’s and ladies teams which toured the UK in 2009, which will probably come as something of a relief to most, as rumour had suggested that that wasn’t actually their strongest teams and that they had had some better players at home who couldn’t afford to make the trip over. However, that relief will only be very temporary as this is a squad packed with talent; they won the men’s competition and drew the ladies against the UK in 2009, and at that point they were a very young side by international polocrosse standards. By the time the World Cup comes around they will be older and wiser and even better.
The only change in the men’s side is the inclusion of Gavin Cocker, probably as a replacement for Andrew Heynes who is not in the squad. Also Retief Steenkamp is not in the squad. Cocker is the only survivor from the men’s section of the 2007 World Cup, which means the crowds in the UK will not get to witness the wonders of watching Charl Du Plessis play, but in players like Attie Van Wyk and Jannie Steenkamp, South Africa have some very able replacements at number 1.
The ladies side still contains the sisters Dawnay and Celicia Jacobs, veterans of the 2007 World Cup side which lost very narrowly in the semi final against Australia and they are joined by the majority of their team mates from last summer’s tour of the UK. The only absences are Che Taylor and Karin Cocker, while Jossie Spilsbury joins the squad.
This all means that their World Cup squad will have a much younger feel to it than the 2007 side, particularly in the men’s section, but there is still plenty of experience in there. Whether it is a world beating squad remains to be seen, the SA ladies were probably weaker than the UK ladies last year and the men only won narrowly, not as convincingly as the Irish men who recently put the UK to the sword. Also it is all very well beating the UK, who have struggled somewhat on the international scene since their second place in the 2007 World Cup but it is quite another to get past the reigning champions Australia, who have already named their final squad and are now fully focused on taking the trophy home with them again.
However, if one country can trouble Australia it could be South Africa, they were the only team to push them to the limit in 2007 and for a few moments in the semi final it looked like the hosts might lose. However, late on in that game Gavin Cocker parted company with his horse at a crucial moment and the Australians promptly overcame a 1 goal deficit to go on to win by 2 goals. It was a very different story in the quadrangular competition in 2009 though when Australia destroyed South Africa 33-9 and that South African squad did contain a number of the players named in the World Cup squad.
The good news for South Africa is that the draw should favour them at least reaching their first world cup final, they will be in a pool (editors note: we think!) with Australia, Zimbabwe and USA so, providing they can overcome their neighbours Zimbabwe and grab at least second spot, they should then face one of the UK, Ireland, New Zealand or Zambia in the semi finals. It won’t be an easy match by any standards but at least it’s better than facing Australia at that stage.
In truth, only time will tell if this young South Africa side can take the World Cup home at the third time of asking but one thing is sure, they will deliver some fast and furious polocrosse for the fans to cheer and lots of overarm shots to make the polocrosse purists in Australia gnash their teeth and scream for a ban!
Elri Van Der Merwe
Leanne Van Wyk
Attie Van Wyk
Nico Van Wyk