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New-look SA team up against it in Serbia

The FINA Men’s Water Polo World League got underway in Nis, Serbia on Wednesday and South Africa could not have asked for a tougher opening round. Serbia won the competition in 2007 and 2008 and finished third in 2009.

The Balkan countries are once again odds-on favorites to clinch the title after their clean sweep of the medals in 2009.

The eight teams are split into two groups of four who will play each other on a round robin basis from 13-15 July. South Africa find themselves in Group B with Australia, Croatia (2009 silver medallists) and Serbia who won bronze in 2009. Group A consists of USA, Montenegro, China and Spain. Montenegro won the title in 2009 whilst Spain were 2009 World Championship silver medallists.

The battle for the medals is expected to be fought out once again by Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia, but the Americans cannot be written off either after winning the silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games. The prize at stake: berths at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai, China.

The South African team is vastly different to the one that went to the tournament in 2009. Only four players of that team are in the 2010 team and they will be players upon whom the management team will rely on. Bevan Manson, the captain, will have a big responsibility on his shoulders as the team will look to him not only for guidance but also inspiration. The other two remaining team members from 2009 are Grant Belcher, Don Stewart and Ryan Bell.

South Africa’s first match opposition, Serbia have quite a formidable track record. As part of the former Serbia and Montenegro, the team finished second in 2004, won the tournament in 2003, 2005 and 2006 and then went on to win again in 2007 and 2008. Considering that the FINA Men’s World League Super Final has only been going since 2002, this is indeed an impressive record.

South Africa play Australia on Wednesday 14 July, and Croatia on Thursday 15 July. The play-offs to see who will be in the semi-finals will take place on Friday 16 July. The semi-final is on Saturday 17 July, and the finals on Sunday 18 July, including the matches to determine the minor placings.

The full South African team is: Grant Belcher, Matt Kemp, Bevan Manson, Don Stewart, Mark Spencer, Patrick McCarthy, Richard Downes, William Naidoo, Devon Card, Nicholas Molyneux, Ryan Bell, Gavin Kyte, Gareth Samuels. Coach: Brad Rowe, Assistant coach: Ryan Weideman, Official: Guy Pinker


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