The South African women's team is all set to play their first Test series since the Beijing Olympics five months ago, when they come up against Germany in three internationals at Stellenbosch University Wednesday 4, Friday 6 and Saturday 7 February.
In terms of preparation going into the SPAR Challenge Test Series, South African captain Marsha Marescia said Monday she felt the home side is more or less on par with the visitors. 'Germany has eight new caps in their 22-player squad, while the rest were in Beijing, we also have a few new faces in our team so we are evenly balanced', Marescia said.
Post-Beijing, SA have also seen a number of changes for this series, with Fiona Butler and Taryn Hosking both retired and Lesley-Ann George currently unavailable. And of the squad to meet Germany, an injury concern surround Tarryn Bright, Vida Ryan and Dirkie Chamberlain, while one of the unlucky players to miss the Beijing selection, Henna du Buisson, is currently playing in France.
The world's third-ranked Germans finished fourth in Beijing, losing the bronze medal play-off to Argentina
SA head coach Jenny King said her side was 'pretty close' in terms of readiness for the Germany series to where they were before the Beijing Olympics. 'The training sessions have been of high intensity and while all the new caps have done well, Loreen Irvine is looking particularly exciting.'
King, however, has a few tactical conundrums, the most pressing being in midfield with the unavailability of George, who has 35 Tests behind her. 'Lesley is an out-and-out midfielder, but I am going to try Loreen there. She plays in central defense at national level but we will see how it goes.'
King was impressed with the newcomers to the SA squad - Julia Cass, Pippa Rabey, Cindy Botha, Hanli Hattingh and Irvine. 'I was surprised to see that the gap between the new caps and our medium-stream players [those 30-50 caps] is not that big. Their skills and physicality is right up there.'
The coach said SA would also miss the services of experienced striker Du Buisson, who has 34 caps and 17 international goals to her credit. 'Henna's scoring ability will be missed. We will play Kathy Taylor, who is a midfielder, as the striker and she will have support from Shelley Russell.'
All three tests will be played at the University of Stellenbosch.
SPAR SA Squad: Mariette Rix, Sanani Mangisa, Kate Hector, Roxanne Turner, Julia Cass, Cindy Brown, Marsha Marescia (capt), Pippa Rabey, Shelley Russell, Dirkie Chamberlain, Lisa Deetlefs, Kelly Madsen, Kim Hubach, Vida Ryan, Vidette Ryan, Lenise Marais, Kathleen Taylor, Farah Fredericks, Cindy Botha, Hanli Hattingh, Loreen Irvine, Tarryn Bright.
1st test: Wednesday 4 February 2009 (19:00)
2nd Test: Friday 6 February 2009 (19:00)
3rd Test: Saturday 7 February 2009 (15:00)
Source: BLD / South African Hockey Association