The South African canoe polo team have arrived in Italy for the 2016 ICF Canoe Polo World Championships and with a good mixture of youth and experience, are eying a strong showing against the world’s best when the tournament starts Tuesday and continues through to 4 September.
The team had some difficulty on arrival in Syracuse when their boats did not arrive at the same time, meaning a shaky start to their stay, however after their craft were located, the squad got onto the water and started their preparations for the tournament in conditions different to what they are familiar with.
‘Despite the difficult start to the tour, the guys have settled well and are just getting used to playing in salt water as opposed to fresh water like we do back home,’ said team assistant, Nicole de Bree.
‘The team had a warm-up game against Brazil on Sunday which they lost to the men from South America 2-0. The game did however help our guys get used to the conditions as the ball gets more slippery in salt water.
‘We then played another warm up game against Ireland on Monday but scores were not kept for this match.’
South Africa will have a tough task in their opening game against Switzerland on Wednesday and with two other tough games lined up, the small squad of players will need to draw on the experience of those who have competed in the senior division at World Championships before.
‘We have taken a small side of only six players to this world champs, but we are confident that it is a strong side with each player bringing a unique skill to the team.
‘They complement each other nicely and will be hoping to finish the tournament in the top 12 while still being happy with a top 16 placement as the team is quite young at the moment, with the average age of 25 years.
‘There are two experienced members in the team who have played in the senior division before while the other four team members played in the U21 division at the previous World Champs in 2014,’ De Bree added.
South Africa missed out on the World Championships in 2015 but make a welcome return this year, with the team trying to use their performance at the World Championships as a means to grow interest in the discipline in South Africa amongst the youth.
‘We are working very hard in growing canoe polo in South Africa, with our focus based mainly on developing the sport at a schools level in KZN and Gauteng.
‘We will be holding schools leagues in KZN and Gauteng in the new season while Chris de Bree will be starting coached sessions at ERK Canoe Club in Benoni as soon has he gets back from these World Champs to promote the sport to younger players,’ added De Bree.
Picture of SA in action against Brazil courtesy of Mariaan Ponsie/Gameplan Media