The last time South Africa hosted the Australia Match was 1999, when I had the great privilege of being a coach for the GB team. So there is a certain symmetry in now having the immense honour of leading the GB team to South Africa in 2017 on the occasion of the Australia Match’s return.
Competing at the de Wet range outside Bloemfontein is one of the great challenges in the sport of Target Rifle shooting. The combination of altitude, the range being at 4,500ft, an unpredictable climate, a frequently fiendish breeze, and indomitable host team make it one of the most exacting places to shoot in the world. However I am very fortunate to have such a superlative team perfectly capable of meeting the challenge.
I am also supported by two very able team officers in Jeremy Langley as Vice Captain and Derek Lowe as Adjutant. Both Jeremy and Derek were part of the GB team in 1999, as were 6 other members of my team. There can be few sports in which half of the GB team are still able to compete at the highest level nearly 20 years on.
Apart from the unique test of the Australia Match in South Africa, there is the no small matter of the RSA International and Protea Matches a few days later, which GB last won in 2008. In order to perform at the highest level in these competitions, training is paramount. This is not easy as the tour takes place before the Bisley season starts, when most GB shooters have yet to emerge from hibernation. Spending time on the range in a British winter is rarely an uplifting experience and so we are introducing various novel alternatives to aid our preparations, and have been lucky to secure help from an experienced physiotherapist, Jackie Davies. Having toured with GB before Jackie is well used to ensuring we stay fit and judging by her introduction of Tai Chi to our regime also has concerns for our spiritual wellbeing!
Any GB touring team also faces several logistic challenges, not least of which is financial. Being almost entirely self-funded the team relies heavily on fund raising and I would like to thank our many sponsors for their invaluable help. In addition I am very grateful to the National Rifle Association for its support of the team. Being selected to represent your country is a great honour accorded to few and I know the members of the 2017 team are determined to represent GB with distinction in South Africa.
Captain – Great Britain Rifle Team, South Africa 2017