The Women’s and Under 21 Men’s South African canoe polo teams set off for a gruelling two week trip of Europe were they will play in two tournaments, aiming to gain as much experience as possible ahead of the 2020 Canoe Polo World Championships in Rome, Italy.
The two week tour is going to be a brutal one for the two young teams with the majority of the ladies team being comprised of junior girls. The teams will start out in Belgium in the town of Ghent where they will play in a two day tournament against some of the strongest canoe polo clubs in Europe.
The Under 21 men’s team will play against clubs comprised of some of the best players in the world that have recently returned from the World Championships in Canada.
It is going to be a tough tournament for the ladies, who will take part in division two, which will see them drawn against 21 men’s teams from all across Europe.
They then move to the city of Ieper (Ypres) for a week of training before the De Pabbel International Tournament from 25 to 26 August. This tournament consists of 70 teams across four divisions in one of the most popular canoe polo tournaments in the world.
Once again the Under 21 men’s side will take on the best in division one while the ladies will have a slightly easier draw in the women’s division.
Despite the ladies being in a separate draw they are going to be in for a tough tournament with world champions Germany providing five teams in the division.
For experienced Team SA player and national committee member Laurel Oettle the tour is going to be a vital stepping stone for both teams in their bid to qualify for the World Championships in 2020.
“The aim of the tour is to expose the up and coming canoe polo players to the rigours of international standard canoe polo,” Oettle said.
“This will challenge, and hopefully inspire them to aim high as they begin their preparations for the upcoming African Championships in 2019 – which they need to win to qualify for the World Championships in 2020.”
Familiarising the squads with top level competition can only be a positive for them and Oettle believes this tour is going to be the perfect opportunity for them to learn from the best.
“As the majority of the ladies squad are U18 they have a number of year to compete in an U21 level ahead of them, learning to cope with the pressures of high standard canoe polo will stand them in good stead for the years to come.
“The tour is aimed at developing the players and teams not at achieving any particular result, and we wish them a eye opening and enjoyable experience,” she added.