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SA men begin defence of EU Nations Cup title in Malta
- Updated: May 12, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
The victorious South African men’s water polo team start the defence of their EU Nations Cup in Malta on Thursday.
Invited to play in Denmark last year, the team beat the hosts 10-8 in a dramatic final.
This year sees three more European teams joining the fray and once again the host nation are going to be a force to be reckoned with. Malta have invested significant amounts of money into their national team, recently back from the European Championships.
Austria have also upped their game by recruiting a former Hungarian international player to help build for the future.
South Africa will play Wales, Austria, Ireland and Lithuania in their pool matches.
The South African team is a different animal to the one which won in Odense last year. Veteran Etienne le Roux is back in an attempt to win gold while youngsters Themba Mthembu (18), Jason Evazard (19) and Roarke Olver (21) get a taste of international water polo at a senior level.
Also back from injury and in the last line of defence is Franco Conversano.
They have plenty of experience in the form of skipper Pierre Le Roux, back in Johannesburg after a brief stint in Cape Town and veterans Jon Marc de Carvalho and Devon Card, all gold medalists from the school of 2015.
Also there are WP stalwarts Lood Rabie and youngster Nick Downs, brother of former SA player Richard Downs. Rabie is brother to triathlete Mari, who looks all but set to represent Team South Africa at this year’s Olympics in Rio.
The two add some strength and depth to the team. Dean Whyte and Nick Schooling again feature and their strength, speed and experience will only raise the level of play on game day.
Should they come through their pool on top, South Africa will take on Pool B’s winners in Sunday’s final.