The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team will be looking to pick up where they left off in 2010 when the SA International Series begins against Azerbaijan at 7 pm on Wednesday at Wanderers Club in Johannesburg.
Captain Marsha Marescia’s side came back from four successive defeats to world champions Argentina at the University of Free State hockey centre in Bloemfontein to record a stunning 4-0 victory over Las Leonas (The Lionesses) in the December 17 Test that shocked the hockey world.
The SA public will be treated to a unique spectacle of 18 top-class Test matches over the next 22 days when the girls in green and gold, ranked 12th in the world, take on world number four and Beijing Olympic silver medallists China as well as world 14 Azerbaijan in Johannesburg (11 Test matches) and then China and world 17 Belgium in Bloemfontein (eight Tests).
The 26-player Investec South Africa squad, which will be whittled down to 18 for each match, will be missing a number of players including the 150-plus capped Jen Wilson, the vastly experienced forward who featured strongly in the World Cup and┬á Commonwealth Games in recent months.
The England-based KZN Coastal Raiders captain is nursing an injury at present, while her provincial team-mate, striker Cindy Botha, is also on the injury list.
But returning to action is Roxanne Turner, who suffered the heartbreak of pulling out of the Commonwealth Games before the first game in Delhi with a recurring back injury. The Kaspersky Southern Gauteng forward also missed the December series against Argentina in Bloemfontein.
SA head coach Giles Bonnet and his battery of trainers will also be holding four hours’ preparation and training ahead of each Test match as he continues his quest for the national team to achieve an unprecedented top six finish at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Wed Jan 19, Thurs Jan 20, both vs Azerbaijan (both Wanderers Club 7pm).
Sat Jan 22 vs Azerbaijan (Wanderers 5pm)
Sun Jan 23 vs Azerbaijan (5pm), Mon Jan 24 vs Azerbaijan (7pm) both at Randburg).
Tues Jan 25, Wed Jan 26, Thurs Jan 27, Fri Jan 28 all vs China (all 7 pm at Wanderers).
Sat Jan 29 and Sun 30 both vs China (both Randburg 5pm).
* China and SA will then travel to Bloemfontein for the remaining eight Tests from February 1 to 9 that will include Belgium.
INVESTEC SA TEAM
Marsha Marescia (capt), Pietie Coetzee, Lisa Deetlefs, Roxy Turner (all Kaspersky Southern Gauteng), Marcelle Keet, Dani Forword (both Border), Mariette Rix, Kathleen Taylor, Shelley Russell, Jade Mayne, Tarryn Bright, Illse Davids, Hanli Hattingh, Pippa Rabey, Nicole de Vries (all Western Province), Lesle-Ann George, Hettie Oosthuizen, Izelle Lategan (all Free State), Kara Stella (KZN Inland), Dirkie Chamberlain, Nicolene Terblanche, Kim Hubach, Sanani Mangisa (all Northerns Blues), Kelly Madsen (KZN Coastal Raiders), Sulette Damons, Celia Evans (both North West). Head coach: Giles Bonnet.