Four members of the South African hockey team that won the Junior World Cup Africa Qualifier last month have been included in the senior men's team to take part in the Champions Challenge tournament in Quilmes, Argentina from 24 November to 2 December.
Played every two years, the Champions Challenge features the next tier of top hockey playing nations below the top six ranked sides in the world.
The squad, announced on Thursday, includes five players each from Southern Gauteng and the Northern Blues, three apiece from Western Province and the KZN Coastal Raiders, and one each from KZN Inland and North West.
The four under-21 players - Matthew Guise-Brown and Grant Glutz of Northern Blues, Robin Jones of KZN Inland and Ignatius Malgraff of North West - are all new caps.
"Matthew has specialist skills, which are handy at top level," said national hockey coach Gregg Clark. "It's an opportunity for him to step up to the plate at penalty corners, while as a defender he has effective aerial skills and is a strong, tough guy, a requirement for defending at top level."
Clark said striker Grant Glutz had impressed for an SA invitation team that played Germany during the 2012 Olympic Games champions' training camp at the University of the Free State earlier this year, where "he scored a great backhand goal".
"Grant has an instinctive ability to score goals, which is difficult to coach, and has established a good record at junior level," Clark said. "He deserves a chance to translate that skill at a higher level."
SA under-21 captain
Defender Robin Jones captained the South African under-21 side and impressed with his leadership skills. "Robin was highly regarded by the coaching staff and it will be interesting to see what he can do another step up," said Clark, who is South Africa's most capped men's hockey player of all time, with 250 internationals to his name.
Malgraff is an exciting talent, he added. "Ignatius has lots of pace up front and Champs Challenge gives us an opportunity to have a really good look at him after lots of recommendations."
Clark said those who did duty at the Olympics in London three months ago and were not selected for Argentina are still in the picture, while some were not available for a variety of reasons. "We also want to look at new players as we enter a new Olympic cycle," he explained.
Clark said the tournament format would help ease South Africa into the event. "We are guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals, so the three pool games can be used in that respect."
South Africa faces Japan on 24 November, Argentina on 25 November and Ireland on 27 November before the quarter-finals on 29 November. They will be followed by the semi-finals and crosspool playoffs on 1 December. The medal and classification matches are on 2 December.
The team departs for Argentina on Sunday, 18 November.
SOUTH AFRICAN TEAM
Austin Smith (capt), Lloyd Norris-Jones, Jacques le Roux (all Western Province); Michael Smith, Ricky West, Clinton Panther, Owen Mvimbi, Miguel da Graca (all Southern Gauteng); Rhett Halkett, Matthew Guise-Brown, Jonty Robinson, Nicholas Gonsalves, Grant Glutz (all Northern Blues); Lloyd Madsen, Tim Drummond, Taine Paton (all KZN Coastal Raiders); Robin Jones (KZN Inland); Ignatius Malgraff (North West)