Johannesburg - Swimming SA (SSA) has selected a young swimming squad for the inaugural tri-nation Aquatic Super Series against Australia and China in Perth starting on Friday.
Two-time Olympian Suzaan van Biljon was the most senior swimmer in the team, which departed on Monday, brimming with the cream of South Africa’s junior talent.
Olympic medallists Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos were obvious omissions, with injuries keeping them on home soil.
Roland Schoeman was also sidelined due to injury, leaving the team with only five Olympians to add some experience to an otherwise youthful group.
“It is quite a hard task that we are undertaking. I’m not going to harp on the fact that our top swimmers and Olympic swimmers aren’t with us,” said national swimming coach Graham Hill.
“We need to get out there with our juniors and build a team for the next four years for 2016.”
Hill said the competition, which will be held over the next three years, would be used as a foundation towards the 2016 Rio Olympics.
“It’s a very young and inexperienced team that we are sending but it will be an ideal opportunity for them to learn against the best swimmers in the world,” he said.
“We still expect them to stand up and deliver. This is part of our build-up towards the 2016 Olympic Games and the experience will be very important in their preparation.”
Exposing younger and less experienced swimmers to world class competition, according to SSA chief executive Shaun Adriaanse, was vital to ensure South Africa produced the next generation of elite swimmers.
“We have a proud history of producing Olympic champions and if we are to continue that tradition we need to make sure that we are swimming and competing against the very best,” Adriaanse said.
“China and Australia are among the powerhouses of international aquatics so it doesn’t get much more demanding for this team.”
The youngest member of the 28-strong squad is 13-year-old Nathania van Niekerk, who will be swimming in the women's 200 metres backstroke.
SSA high-performance manager Dean Price said they had selected the team with a clear goal in mind.
“We did analyses of the performances in London (Olympic Games), and we looked at the age categories of those swimmers that were winning medals,” Price said.
“In the women’s section the majority of the medals were won in the ages 15 to 18 years, so they were relatively young, and the men were aged 20 to 24.
“So we are trying to identify swimmers in those age groups for Rio 2016, so that they will be in the prime of their swimming career.”
SA swimming team:
Men: Alaric Basson, Bryon Doyle, Calvyn Justus, Charl Crous, Darren Murray, Leith Shankland, Aryton Sweeney, Garth Tune, Jan Petrus van der Merwe, Giulio Zorzi, Christopher Reid, Myles Brown, Charl Crous, Jarred Crous.
Women: Jessica Ashley-Cooper, Marne Erasmus, Kelly Gunnel, Lehesta Kemp, Trudi Maree, Tara-Lynn Nicholas, Jessica Pengelly, Kyna Pereira, Marlies Ross, Suzaan van Biljon, Nathania van Niekerk, Rene Warnes, Michelle Weber, Rita Naud.