Quintin van Jaarsveld
Four Paddock Polocrosse Club players represented South Africa with aplomb in the incoming junior test series against Australia in Port Elizabeth recently.
Amber Pretorius played an influential role in the South African Under-21 side, while her sister Paige Pretorius and stablemates Kenan Classen and Jens Bunge flew the flag high for the national Under-16 side.
The South Africans horsed the visitors from Down Under, with each player supplying four horses each. Horse pools were split evenly between the countries before the draw was held to pair up riders with horses.
After a few days of co-ordinating horses and players to identify the most suitable positions, the three-match test series got underway with much excited at Port Elizabeth Polocrosse Club.
The South African Under-21s drew first blood with a convincing 28-15 victory, however, the Australians bounced back with a 29-17 win and clinched the series with a 30-22 win in the decider.
Former South African Under-16 stalwart Amber said while her debut series for the national Under-21 side didn’t go the way they’d planned, it was an unforgettable experience.
“It was an honour to represent my country and play with such an awesome team…and getting coached by the best was really great,” the 19-year-old told eHowzit.
“The tour was so much fun; I gained both memories and experience that will last a lifetime. Drawing my main horse Diva Doll and wining the first test match was the highlight of the tour for me.
“The Australians are good fun and great players, who gave us good competition, making every minute of the game a fight till the end.”
Kenan captained the South African Under-16s, who galloped into a formidable Australian Under-16 side. The hosts fought gallantly but went down 28-13, 26-10 and 26-14.
“As players, we learned a great deal playing against a strong side such as Australia. It was a great honour and privilege for me to represent South Africa and the tour was an incredible experience,” Kenan told eHowzit.
“As team captain, it was great to see the personal growth in all the individual players and that even under great pressure, my teammates never stopped believing in each other and fought courageously until the final whistle. My personal highlight was my main horse being awarded the Golden Pony prize [given to the best horse of tournament].
“On behalf of the SA Under-16 team, I’d like to thank our team coaches and management staff for their great support and encouragement and our parents and generous sponsors who made this event possible.”
Vice-captain Paige told eHowzit: “It was wonderful to represent SA. When we sang the national anthem, it gave me a feeling I can’t describe! It was so much fun and was really fantastic.
“Even though we lost, we still got the experience to play against the Australians as well as meet them and spend quality time with my team.”
Jens echoed his teammates’ sentiments. “It was a huge privilege to represent the country. I felt very proud to have been selected.
“They were very tough opposition, but we played hard and I learned a lot from the experience,” he told eHowzit.