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SA prepare for Argentina

The South African women’s hockey side are hard in training ahead of a five-Test series against world champions Argentina┬á that starts next week.

The Investec SA side’s training camp began at the University of Free State Hockey Centre in Bloemfontein Sunday in anticipation of the five-Test series against world champions Argentina that begins at the same venue next Sunday.

The series takes place on December 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17.

Team SA title sponsors Investec has continued its sponsorship after the initial investment in the team for the World Cup which Argentina’s Las Leonas (The Lionesses) won in the South American country’s home city of Rosario three months ago.

“The Argentineans have a fantastic squad of players who will test our girls to the utmost and the challenge they present is what the team is looking for as preparations get into full swing for the Champions Challenge in Ireland in June and then of course the London 2012 Olympic Games,” said SA head coach Giles Bonnet Sunday.

During the week-long camp building into the series, Bonnet has a number of top overseas and SA-based coaches to complement his work, including fitness specialist Dr Derek Coetzee, who was a key member of Jake White’s victorious 2007 Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks in France.

With eight World Cup gold medalists in this squad for the African safari, Las Leonas are favourites to beat the Amsterdam-based Bonnet’s squad, but South Africa have world-class players of their own in Kaspersky Southern Gauteng superstar Pietie Coetzee, who has netted an unprecedented 201 Test match goals in 203 internationals.

Another player with world-class status is Investec SA captain and central midfielder Marsha Marescia, who is also a provincial team-mate of Coetzee’s and was selected for the World All Stars team in 2008.

SA do have some serious injury concerns amongst the forwards, however, and Roxy Turner of Kaspersky Southern Gauteng as well as KZN Coastal Raiders forwards Cindy Botha and captain Jen Wilson are definitely out.

Several SA players who are playing for clubs in Holland, including Marescia, will be flying in from Europe Tuesday and Wednesday, and the fabulous Argentina squad jet into the country a day or two later.