South Africa seems to have announced their final World Cup team in August, the only problem was that no one told anyone outside of Africa (editor’s note: well, no one actually emailed it to us and we only just discovered the downloads section on the South African polocrosse website! It’s not our fault, it’s well hidden…). Now we have unearthed it in an old version of the South African Newsletter we can reveal that the 8 players who will carry the hopes of the rainbow nation on their shoulders will be Jossie Spilsbury (VC), Nikki Crook, Celicia Jacobs, Julie Royden-Turner (who wasn’t included in the 12 strong squad they initially named in July), Gavin Cocker (C), Graham Maclarty, Jan Albert Steenkamp and Nico Van Wyk.
There are just two survivors from the team which finished third in 2007, and they are the captain, Gavin Cocker, and Celicia Jacobs, who was just 17 then. There is no place in the team for Celicia’s sister Dawnay, who played in the last World Cup at the age of 15. There is, however, the 16 year Graham Maclarty in the team, who got his first international men’s cap playing against the UK men’s side in 2009, putting in a very impressive performance as South Africa won the test match series two nil in the UK. It is, overall, a young team, with Gavin Cocker being considerably older than his team mates, as he is now 41 and will be playing in his third World Cup; he played for Zimbabwe in 2003 before moving to South Africa.
It is an immensely talented side though, Nikki Crook and Celicia Jacobs both impressed against the UK in 2008 as they drew their test match series one all with a strong UK side and Nico Van Wyk was probably the best player for the men’s team in 2008. There is no place in the team for his twin brother Attie but he is named on the 13 strong reserves list (editor’s note: clearly South Africa intend to be prepared in case they have to remove any or all of their squad!), which also includes their sister Leanne Van Wyk. Jannie Steenkamp is the fourth man and he is a exceptional talented young player as well.
If South Africa play their best in 2011 they could finally take the World Cup home at the third time of asking. Teams like Australia and the UK will probably feel they can defeat the ladies section but the men’s section could well be fairly invincible for all but perhaps Australia themselves and even they might struggle against the insane stick and ball skills and long ball tactics that the South African men will demonstrate with ease. Also South Africa will probably prefer the horses in the UK to the mainly stock horse pools that they got in Australia for the last two world cups, there will be more thoroughbreds and more horses of a similar type that they use back home, though they have also now started breeding stock horses in South Africa itself to play polocrosse.
In truth, only time will tell if this young South Africa side can take the World Cup home 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!