JOHANNESBURG – Eight months ago star hockey striker Candice Manuel was rueing missed opportunities as she recovered from a broken hand suffered at the Continental Cup in Egypt.
Now after making her Commonwealth Games debut in Australia in April, she is ready to play her hand in South Africa’s Hockey Women’s World Cup campaign in England.
This 14th edition of the tournament will be held from July 21 to August 5 at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London.
The 18-player squad, under the coaching reins of Sheldon Rostron, has been announced for the English trip.
Reacting to the news of her inclusion, Manuel told Team SA: “It’s been a race to get things in order now since the selection. It’s actually my first World Cup so I’m super excited to grab the opportunity with both hands.
“I’m always nervous for selection. In my mind, I was ever really sure and settled I’d be doing myself a disservice as an athlete.
“So really, this opportunity means the world to me. We leave for Holland on June 30 for a training camp which should be great preparation.
“I’m excited to work alongside our experience and new “freshies” to play some fun and exciting hockey. And to make a statement like I know we can,” added Manuel.
South Africa, who went on to win the Continental Cup in Egypt, then finished fifth at the World League semifinal in Johannesburg in June last year, to qualify for the World Cup.
The squad features a blend of some superb youngsters coupled with experienced campaigners.
One of the notable names missing is Ilse Davids, who celebrated her birthday just before Team SA departed for Commonwealth Games and has announced her retirement recently, while SA Player of the year for 2016, Celia Evans, misses out through a knee injury.
Shelley Jones and Dirkie Chamberlain will be key to South Africa’s approach at the World Cup as they both take part in their fourth World Cup.
Dynamic duo Lisa-Marie Deetlefs and Sulette Damons will take part in their third, while Nicolene Terblanche returns for her second after featuring at the Hague in 2014. Their collective experience will be key to a South African side featuring some incredible youngsters.
There is a return to the squad for Tarryn Glasby and Lilian du Plessis (her second World Cup as well) who missed out on the Commonwealth Games, adding much-needed threat in front of goal alongside the explosive talent of Manuel.
The experienced trio of Erin Hunter, Nicole Walraven and Kara Botes will be joined in defence by the exciting Simone Gouws, who was Junior Player of the Tournament at the recently completed IPT.
Kristen Paton and Ongi Mali, often spoken of as the future of SA Hockey, will now be a very active part of the present.
The team is completed by Western Province duo Quanita Bobbs and Jade Mayne, who will look to continue their fine form in the green and gold when arriving in London.
South Africa will take part in Group C, facing off against Germany (world ranking – sixth) on July 21, Spain (11th) on July 26 and Argentina (third) on July 28.
Teams that finish first will progress straight to the quarterfinals, teams finishing second or third will move to the playoffs while the fourth-placed team will be eliminated.
Rostron, head coach of the South African women, says: “The group that we have created has a good blend of experience and youth. We have looked at specific skill requirements as well as the players form over the past 12 months.
“Simone Gouws will add a different dynamic in our defence, which we feel is needed, while the return of Lilian will make us a more threatening attacking team.
“As much as this is a team for the FIH Hockey Women’s World Cup, it is also a team to build for the future of SA Women’s Hockey.”
South Africa’s 18-member squad is:
Phumelela Mbande (Northern Blues), Marlize van Tonder (Southern Gauteng), Erin Hunter (Southern Gauteng), Kara Botes (Southern Gauteng), Simone Gouws (Free State), Nicole Walraven (Free State), Lisa Deetlefs (Southern Gauteng), Shelley Jones (KwaZulu-Natal Raiders), Kristen Paton (Southern Gauteng), Quanita Bobbs (Western Province), Nicolene Terblanche (Northern Blues), Suzette Damons (North West), Candice Manuel (Western Province), Ongi Mali (Eastern Province), Lilian du Plessis (Southern Gauteng), Tarryn Glasby (Western Province), Dirkie Chamberlain (North West), Jade Mayne (Western Province).