South Africa’s elite bowlers will have a final chance to impress the selectors at the end of this month, as they target coveted places in the national team for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, from 23 July to 3 August.
Five men and five women lawn bowlers will represent the country at the multi-sport showpiece, together with two visually impaired and three disabled bowlers, and they will hope to repeat the national team’s superb performance at the previous quadrennial Games.
The SA squad won three bowls gold medals at Delhi 2010 ÔÇô┬á the most of any of the 24 nations competing ÔÇô by securing victory in the men’s pairs, and the men’s and women’s trips.
The selectors will name the team after a Gold Squad final trials camp, which includes 16 bowlers of each gender, at Edenvale Bowling Club from 31 January to 2 February.
The team will be announced, subject to approval by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), at the annual Warwick Wealth/Bowls SA Masters in Johannesburg on 13 February.
The standard and stakes are high, with limited spots available in the team, and there will be no quarter asked or given in a code where South Africa boasts an enviable record.
The country has secured 30 medals (12 gold) at the Commonwealth spectacle since the inaugural 1930 British Empire Games in Ontario, to lie fourth in the all-time list behind England (39), Australia (36) and New Zealand (35).
This year’s Games will involve around 6 500 athletes from 70 nations in 17 sports, with bowlers competing in singles, pairs and trips at┬áone of Glasgow’s most famous parks ÔÇô the picturesque Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre.
No one can be assured of a place in the team, but six of the eight champions from Delhi┬á Gerry Baker, Wayne Perry, Tracy-Lee Botha (all Johannesburg Bowling Association), Gidion Vermeulen (Port Natal), Santjie Steyn (Boland) and Susan Nel (Sables) ÔÇô┬á are back in the mix.
Prince Neluonde, impressive on debut against Namibia late last year, will attempt to become the first black African bowler to compete at the Games.
ÔÇ£South African bowls is highly respected worldwide,” said┬áBowls SA president Allan Freeman:┬á”Our medal tally in the highly competitive international arena underlies our players’ unbelievable standard of discipline and skill. The country will hope another gold haul is ‘mined’, this time from Glasgow.ÔÇØ
The Games’ bowls programme will include fully integrated competing para-sport athletes. Spectators are welcome at the all-day trials.
Women: Tracy-Lee Botha (Jhb), Gaylyn Bedford-Owen (Sables), Sylvia Burns (WP), Pam Cole-Cook (Kingfisher), Theuna Grobler (WP), Louise Larkin (Port Natal), Geraldine Moodaley (N Cape) Susan Nel (Sables), Nici Neal (Sables), Denise Musson (N Cape), Colleen Piketh (JBA), Esm├® Steyn (JBA), Santjie Steyn (Boland), Ren├® Swanepoel (WP), Lourenza van der Merwe (EP), Bronwyn Webber (P Natal)
Men: Pikkie Abbott (North West), Gerry Baker (JBA), Pierre Breitenbach (NW), Bobby Donnelly (JBA), Jason Evans (JBA), Peter Hufkie (EP), Rudi Jacobs (NFS), Rufus McCarthy (Gauteng N), Hertzog Meiring (SFS), Stuart Milligan (P Natal), Prince Neluonde (JBA), Thinus Oelofse (E Gauteng), Wayne Perry (JBA), Conrad Potgieter (Border), Nic Rusling (Sables), Gidion Vermeulen (P Natal).