Ireland prepare to take on host nation South Africa in Cape Town

Craig Fulton’s side boasting plenty experience for the first of six games on the tour

Eugene Magee: will lend his considerable experience to the Ireland side in South Africa. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Ireland’s senior men play the first Test match of 2015 on Sunday in Cape Town as they take on South Africa to kickstart their Olympic qualifying preparations.

Craig Fulton’s side do so in positive mood having moved up to 14th in the new world rankings – within one place of this week’s host nation – following positive performances last year.

South Africa are in transition with just eight players in their panel of 23 retained from last year’s World Cup.

Ireland boast a much more experienced team with Eugene Magee and Ronan Gormley – the country's two most capped players – returning to the panel.

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The South Africa side includes four players who have played in Ireland: Gowan Jones, Jethro Eustice (both Corinthian and Pembroke), Pierre de Voux (Three Rock Rovers) and Brandon Panther (Pembroke).

Ireland will play six games on this warm-weather tour, taking in two matches each against the hosts, world number two side the Netherlands and Belgium.

After that, Ireland will play France three times in Dublin before jetting out to San Diego for World League round two in mid-February.

WEEKEND FIXTURES Saturday – Leinster League Division One: Pembroke v Rathgar, Serpentine Avenue, 2.0; Corinthian v Railway Union, Whitechurch Park, 2.15; UCD v Monkstown, Belfield, 2.45; Glenanne v YMCA, Glenanne Park, 3.0; Avoca v Three Rock Rovers, Newpark, 4.15. Sunday – Senior international challenge: South Africa v Ireland, Hartleyvale, 4.0.

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater

Stephen Findlater is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about hockey