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Hockey selectors cast their net wide for Argentine series

The squad of 24 players chosen to represent the South African men’s hockey team in the five-Test series against world No11 Argentina has an experimental feel┬á to it, reports Jon Cook.

The first Test will be contested at the Riverside Sports Club in Durban North at 6pm on Wednesday.

With SA already through to the 2014 World Cup finals in the Netherlands in May/June it is clear the SA brains trust are casting their net wide before making a final decision on their ultimate combination.

Seasoned starting line-up players including world-class captain Austin Smith are not in the side and there are 14 new faces compared to the team that won the Africa Cup in Nairobi last month.

The South American champions have a host of world-class players and along with the regulars, new caps Dylan Coombes, Nic Spooner, Dean Symons (all Southern Gauteng) and Jody Hosking (North West) as well as the recalled Matt Botha, Craig Haley, Clive Terwin (all Western Province), Miguel da Graca, Owen Mvimbi, Ricky West (all Southern Gauteng), Gowan Jones (KZN Coastal Raiders), Nick Gonsalves, Matt Guise-Brown (both Northern Blues) and Robin Jones (KZN Inland) will face a searching test.

The second Test match is on Thursday at Kearsney College, the third on Saturday at Queensmead, the fourth at Queensmead next Monday and the the final Test at Maritzburg Varsity next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the SA U21 men’s team dominated their crucial Pool D match against New Zealand at the Junior World Cup in Delhi on Monday, yet gilt-edged goalscoring opportunities were spurned and captain Dylan Swanepoel’s side ended up on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline.

A draw would have been enough to put SA into the quarter-finals for the first time. Now lies the difficult task of trying to finish ninth, which would still be the best achievement at this level by the African junior champions. Kane Russell netted the winner for the Kiwis in the second half (44th minute).

The quest for ninth place begins at 1pm SA time on Thursday when SA take on the talented, yet under-achieving Pakistan team, who were held to a 2-2 draw by Pool A winners Belgium on Tuesday after leading one of the gold medal favourites for almost the entire match. The clash is on Pitch B and will not be televised.

SA/ARGENTINA FIXTURES

1st Test Wednesday (Riverside Sports Club 6pm); 2nd Test – Thursday (Kearsney 4pm); 3rd Test – Saturday (Queensmead 3pm); 4th Test ÔÇô Monday, December 16 (Queensmead┬á3pm); 5th Test ÔÇô Tuesday, December 17 (UKZN Pietermaritzburg 6pm).

SA TEAMÔÇ¿

Matt Botha, Pierre de Voux, Craig Haley, Rhett Halkett (capt), Jacques le Roux, Clive Terwin (all Western Province); Dylan Coombes, Miguel da Graca, Jethro Eustice, Owen Mvimbi, Rassie Pieterse, Nic Spooner, Dean Symons, Ricky West (all Southern Gauteng); Tim Drummond, Gowan Jones, Wade Paton, Taine Paton (all KZN Coastal Raiders); Nick Gonsalves, Matt Guise-Brown, Frankie Pretorius, Jonty Robinson (all Northern Blues); Jody Hosking (North West); Robin Jones (KZN Inland). Head coach: Charlie Pereira.


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